New railway linking China, Europe to be built
Kazakhstan will kick off construction of a new railroad this year to link China up with Europe for facilitating transportation between Asia-Pacific and European countries, a vice-president of Kazakhstan Railway Co., Ltd announced on March 12, who was in Hong Kong raising funds for the project.
Six hours needed for changing wheels at borders
This planned railway is part of the New Eurasia Land Bridge, which got its name for differentiating itself from the Trans-Siberian Railroad liking Asian and European continents. The New Eurasia Land Bridge, starting from Lianyungang port at the western coast of the Pacific runs westward via Lanzhou and Urumqi to Alashankou Port at the western border of China, then to Druzhba Port in Kazakhstan. It is another land passage that runs through Asian and European countries and finally reaches the Atlantic coast. The New Eurasia Land Bridge is a bridge of convenience, for it links up nearly a population of 2.2 billion in more than 40 countries in Asia and Europe and dramatically shortened the land transportation distance between the two continents.
Situated at the center of Eurasia continent, Kazakhstan serves a pivot of the New Eurasia Land Bridge. Besides, as a landlocked country Kazakhstan pays high attention to developing land transportation in its economic growth. Building a railway running through its whole territory will be a means for the country to merge with international markets.
Railway lines in the former Soviet Union areas are all 1,520mm broad-gauge ones, while those in China and Europe are 1,435mm ones of international standard, the differences causing great inconvenience to cross-border traffic. At present trade exchanges between China and Kazakhstan mainly depends on railway and there is a pair of passenger trains every week. Passengers shuttling between the two countries say the most tiresome thing in their journey is to wait for six hours at the border when broad-gauge wheels on every carriage are hoisted, removed and with the standard ones to be fixed on. The lengthening time amounts to eight hours counting transit formalities. Moreover, cargo transportation will be more complicated and economic losses are bound to be cropping up during frequent loading and unloading.
New railway to carry 40 million tons of cargo annually
Goods transported via railway from Kazakhstan to China mainly include oil, cotton, nonferrous metal and steel, and those from the other way round are chiefly daily necessities. Last year saw a surge of railway cargo transportation at Alashankou Port in China's Xinjiang, which surpassed 7.5 million tons. Trade volume between China and Kazakhstan registered at 1.5 billion US dollars in 2001, 1.95 billion dollars in 2002 and leapt over 3 billion dollars in last year. Kazakhstan is not only the second largest neighbor of China, but also the second largest trading partner in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The new railway will boast an annual carrying capacity of 40 million tons. After its completion, trains from either Hong Kong or other places of China will directly head for Europe without changing wheels at borders. The border traffic flow of commodities from China, Iran and Turkey, including daily necessities and building materials, will reach 2 billion dollars each year, and the total amount for Asian and European countries will hit 7 billion dollars. Therefore, the railway connecting China and Europe will serve as an active motive force for Chinese and Kazakh economies.
New railway to be built on stock
The planned railway runs a length of 3,083 kilometers within Kazakh territory, which costs an estimated fund of 3.5 billion dollars and will be completed in four years. This is the first time that Kazakhstan Railway Co., Ltd announces the project overseas and the company expects help from Hong Kong business community to evaluate the practicality and commercial value of the project. It is reported that construction of the railway will be funded by way of stockholding system, with Kazakhstan holding 25 percent shares and foreign investors 75 percent. The company has dispatched a delegation to Hong Kong in the hope of attracting investment, and more than 100 industry insiders and investors have shown their interest.
As a matter of fact, China has never stopped making efforts to expand Central Asia transport passages. In September 1995, China signed an agreement with the Kazakh government on using Lianyungang Port for loading, unloading and trafficking transit commodities of Kazakhstan, while Lianyungang Port is just the starting point of the New Eurasia Land Bridge. Currently China, Kyrghyzstan and Uzbekistan are cooperating on a three-partied railway project. The construction plan of the new railway is of strategic significance for economies along the New Eurasia Land Bridge, and is bound to boost economic and trade ties between China and Central Asian countries and expand China's economic and trade links with foreign countries as a whole.