China opens $962 million border railway with Kazakhstan

Dec 22. Hindu Business Line. Beijing

China opens $962 million border railway with KazakhstanChina has opened a $962 million second cross-border railway with Kazakhstan today.

The rail line comprised of 292-km section in China and the remaining 293-km section in Kazakhstan. They were joined at the Korgas Pass in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Construction of the Chinese side of the railway cost $962 million, railway officials said.

The rail line is expected to ease the burden of the Alataw trade pass, where the first China-Central Asia railway traverses. It handles 15.6 million tonnes of train-laden cargo a year.

Industry observers expect the Korgas pass, which now connects China and Kazakhstan by a railway, a highway, and an oil pipeline, to handle 20 million tonnes of cargo a year by 2020 and 35 million tonnes a year by 2030, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The railway launch followed the meet of Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and his Kazakh counterpart Kairat Kelimbetov in Astana earlier this month, vowing to enhance bilateral cooperation in energy, trade, communication and other fields.

Wang suggested enhancing the China-Kazakhstan interconnection by rail and a trans-continental highway that links China with Europe.

China and five central Asian countries have been deepening trade and economic co-operation in recent years.

The total trade volume between China and central, west, and south Asian countries increased from $25.4 billion to more than $370 billion, up about 30 per cent annually.

In particular, trade between Xinjiang and five central Asian countries reached a historical high of $16.98 billion last year, according to customs figures.

Observers said the railway will also help the border city of Korgas become a key logistics hub with a network of highways, railways and pipelines.

Since 2010, China has been redoubling efforts to build Xinjiang into a regional economic centre, eyeing its geographical closeness to central Asia and the region’s abundant natural resources including oil, coal and natural gas.

The Korgas Pass, only 200 km away from Kazakh capital Astana, and 670 km from Urumqi, is the provincial capital of Xinjiang province in China.

He Yiming, head of Xinjiang’s commerce bureau, said markets in Xinjiang and central Asian countries are highly complementary and improved logistics will definitely further boost trade.

Last year, a China-Kazakhstan free trade centre, first of its kind in Eurasia, was launched at Korgas.

Favourable policies include tax reimbursement for exports and permission to carry duty-free products. Citizens from China, Kazakhstan and a third country will be permitted to stay at the centre for as long as 30 days.