According to local press reports, the money will be used to buy construction equipment and fund civil works on the $US 1.9bn project, which involves building a 129km electrified line between the existing railhead at Angren and Pap to create a direct connection between the capital Tashkent and Uzbekistan's second-largest city Namangan.

Reaching an altitude of 2267m above sea level, the Kamchik pass carries the only highway between the two cities entirely in Uzbek territory and it is the only route that could feasibly be taken by a railway through the narrow strip of Uzbek territory between the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan borders.

Construction is expected to take around five years to complete, and will include two major tunnels.

Last November China's Eximbank agreed to provide Uzbekistan with a $US 350m loan to help finance the $455m Kamchik Tunnel, which is being built by the China Railway Tunnel Group. The 19km tunnel is due to be completed by mid-2016.