THE president of Kyrgyzstan, Mr Sadyr Zhaparov, has told local media that he expects construction of the 523km China - Kyrgyzstan - Uzbekistan (CKU) Railway to begin next year.

“We will start in 2023 after the feasibility study is completed this year,” he said, speaking at a summit of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council earlier this month.

Work on the feasibility study is being conducted by all three countries, which in 1997 first signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of the new CKU Railway.

The CKU Railway would comprise 213km in China, 260km in Kyrgyzstan and 50km in Uzbekistan.

It would be the largest project to be undertaken in Kyrgyzstan since the country gained its independence from the Soviet Union.

The partners expect the new line to provide the shortest route for rail freight between China and Europe, being 900km shorter than the existing route.

This would reduce transit times for freight moving between China and Europe by eight days.

Last month, the prime minister of Kyrgyzstan, Mr Akylbek Japarov, told a cabinet meeting that all three governments were working on an agreement to build the CKU Railway.

“We expect that during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in September, the leaders of the three countries will sign a document to begin construction of the railway,” he said.

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