The project would involve constructing 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 2200m 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 land between the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan borders.

Uzbekistan Railways (UTY) estimates the cost of the construction to be around $US 1.9bn, and a final feasibility study will be completed by end of the year with the aim of starting work next year. Construction is expected to take around five years to complete.

Several experts have questioned the viability of the project given UTY's difficult financial situation, although officials argue the high costs of transporting freight by road through the pass or by rail through Tajikistan give the new line precedence.

The new railway would bypass the Xovos – Kokand line, which includes a 110km section through the Tajik region of Sughd. At present the only traffic crossing the border on this route is petroleum, and almost all supplies from the Uzbek regions of Andijan, Namangan and Ferghana pass through Sughd, costing Uzbekistan around $US 25m per year.