International transport corridors
Active development of foreign economic relations of the Republic of Uzbekistan is largely dependent on solving the existing problems of development of foreign trade transportation, facing the whole of Central Asia. Moreover, academician Barthold said: «The Future of Turkestan depends on what position it will hold in world trade. Commercial value of Turkestan is entirely dependent on the development of railways, reducing the cost of land trade compared with the sea trade».
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the number of landlocked countries reached 29, and the Republic of Uzbekistan occupies a special position on this list as it is one of the two countries in the world separated from the ocean at least by the territories of two states (double landlocked).
Before gaining independence, foreign economic relations of Uzbekistan were carried out through three sea ports - Ilyichevsk (with access to the Black Sea), St. Petersburg (with access to the Baltic Sea) and Vladivostok (with access to the ports of the Far East), with respective distances to them from Republic as of 3000, 4300 and 8000 km, which significantly increased the cost of transportation. However, during the years of independence due to purposeful policy of the state situation in this area diametrically changed.
As a result of active measures of the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the coordinated work of involved ministries and agencies in search and effective use of alternative transport corridors for the transportation of foreign goods was developed an extensive network of international transport corridors.
At present, foreign trade goods of Uzbekistan are transported by following main transport corridors:
Corridor 1 – to the ports of the Baltic states (in transit through Kazakhstan and Russia) - Klaipeda (Lithuania), Riga, Liepaja, Ventspils (Latvia), Tallinn (Estonia);
Corridor 2 - through Belarus and Ukraine (in transit via Kazakhstan and Russia) - border crossings Chop (Ukraine) and Brest (Belarus), followed by Europe;
Corridor 3 - to the Ukrainian port of Ilyichevsk (transit through Kazakhstan and Russia), exit to the Black Sea;
Corridor 4 - in the direction of Trans-Caucasian corridor (in transit through Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan), exit to the Black Sea, which is also known as the TRACECA corridor;
Corridor 5 - to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas (in transit through Turkmenistan) with access to the Persian Gulf;
Corridor 6 - in an easterly direction through the Kazakh-Chinese border crossing (Dostyk / Alalshankou) to the eastern ports of China and the Far Eastern port of Nakhodka, Vladivostok etc.;
Corridor 7 – to the Chinese ports (in transit through Kyrgyzstan) with the access to th Yellow, East China and South China Sea.
Corridor 8 – with resolving the Afghan problem opens up new perspectives for the development of south alternative transport corridors to Iranian and Pakistani ports of Bandar Abbas, Chahbahar (IRI), Gwadar and Karachi (PRI) through Afghanistan.
A major achievement in the development of international transport corridors was put into operation on May 12, 1996 with the active participation of the Republic of Uzbekistan of Tejan-Sarakhs-Mashhad railway with length of 320 km (with bogie change from 1520mm track onto 1435mm track at the Sarakhs station), which opened a new Trans-Asian corridor for Central Asia countries to access world markets through territories of Iran and Turkey. In the same year in Sarakhs leaders of Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkmenistan signed «Agreement on coordination of railway transport» and «Agreement on Cooperation in the area of management of transit transport between member states».
With the completion in May of 2005 of construction on the territory of Iran of Bafq-Mashhad railway line on Mashhad-Bandar Abbas route (bypassing Tehran) the distance to the port of Bandar Abbas was reduced by more than 800 km.
In September 1998, in Baku by the initiative of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan, as well as by the European Union was held an «TRACECA – Restoration of the Historic Silk Route» international conference. The important result of the conference was the signing by the heads of 12 states, including Uzbekistan of the «Basic Multilateral Agreement on International Transport for Development of the Transport Corridor Europe-the Caucasus– Asia» (MLA) and its Technical Annexes on international railway transport, international commercial maritime navigation, international road transport, customs and documentation procedures.
Transport corridor «Europe-Caucasus-Asia» (TRACECA) is a network of land and maritime routes, which run from Europe to the Black Sea through the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to Central Asian Republics. Considering the TRACECA route in the context of trade relations between Europe and Asia, location of the major producers in Asia and consumers in Europe on the one hand and the origin of traffic possible major countries of cargo on the other hand, delivery of goods to Europe by Transport corridor TRACECA looks very attractive. The distance by main transoceanic route from Yokohama to major Western European ports (Rotterdam, Hamburg, Antwerp, etc.) is more than two folds longer than the route of TRACECA.
On June 18, 2003 in Teheran (Iran), the Heads of State of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran signed «Agreement on the establishment of an international Trans-Afghan transport corridor» which cuts the distance for transportation of foreign trade goods to the ports of the Republic of Iran by 1500 km.
With the entry into force in March 2011 of «Agreement between Pakistan and Uzbekistan on cooperation in transport and transit of goods» and in the case of stabilizing situation in Afghanistan, new opportunities for the use of Afghan territory for transit of Uzbek goods, which will favorably contribute to the diversification of transport routes of foreign goods to the Iranian and Pakistani ports are there to be seized.
Considerable attention in Uzbekistan is given to development of the main railway communications to enhance the country's transit potential. Completion in 2001 of 341 km «Navoi-Uchkuduk-Sultanuizdag» railway line and 220 km «Tashguzar-Boysun-Kumkurgan» railway line in 2007 is an evidence of the great efforts in this field.
Landmark project for the entire Central Asian region had been recently constructed and put into operation in November 2010 «Hairaton - Mazar-e Sharif» railway line with length 75 km, first of its kind in Afghanistan. The project was implemented by state joint-stock railway company «Uzbekistan Railways» and with support of ADB.
In April 25, 2011 entered into force «Agreement on the use of wagons between railway authorities of Uzbekistan and Turkey» that made rail transportation of goods in the direction of Turkey feasible and more attractive.
Coming soon the completion of the railway route of the Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Kars and application of through-fare all along the way will enable to enter the markets of Southern and Central Europe, as well states of Middle East through the Mediterranean port of Mersin.
In order to promote international trade, large-scale cooperation between the regions, by the initiative of Uzbekistan in April 2011 in Ashgabat was signed an Intergovernmental agreement to establish new transport corridor «Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Iran - Oman – Qatar».
Mentioned transport corridor will create a reliable communication link for passengers and goods transportation between Central Asia and ports of the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea.
Successful implementation of this project will strengthen and expand mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation among member countries, boost the transit flows and provide with a new communication access to world markets.