The China-Kyrgystan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan corridor witnessed the first successful shipment along the route. Running in the context of the training period, the train carrying just two containers departed from the Chinese city of Kashgar on 13 September and reached Hairatan in Afghanistan on Friday, 23 September, making the service’s total transit time ten days.
Wang Yu, the Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, sharing the news of the train’s arrival via Twitter, stressed the importance of the new economic corridor between China and Afghanistan, while he commented that the competitive transit time substantially shortens the distance between the two countries.
What is this new corridor?
The new service is a combination of rail-road, where the first leg of the service is carried by truck. From Kashgar, containers are trucked across the border to the Kyrgyz city of Osh, where the containers are loaded on a train, which continues its way across the Central Asian countries to reach its final destination, Hairatan in Afghanistan.
As the border between China and Kyrgyzstan is situated in the Tian Shan mountain range, impacting the efficiency of a train journey, the service has adopted road transportation as its first leg. With this multimodal transportation solution, the journey should take a total of two weeks marking a significant reduction in journey time.
At present, Cargo between China and Afghanistan is shipped via the seaport of Karachi, and overland through Pakistan. The delays and transit hurdles make this journey almost two months long.
Apart from increasing efficiency, the recent announcement by the Afghan Railway Authority to significantly reduce import and export tariffs on goods being transported by rail makes the corridor more attractive.
Not to Be mistaken as CKU
The Kashgar-Hairatan corridor is not the same as the much-anticipated China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway line. The CKU ends in the city of Andijan in Uzbekistan and does not include Afghanistan. Moreover, the CKU railway line is expected to pass through the agricultural region of Naryn, an area with a lot of potentials to develop as a trade hub.
The CKU railway line- a project which has received much attention, especially from China has found its way back to the design table. It is considered to be the new southern branch of the Belt and Road initiative, and Uzbekistan is set to become the starting point for rail freight traffic to Turkey, and eventually to Europe, especially to Southeast Europe.