The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide technical assistance to support the improvement of railways in the Central Asian region.

ADB has approved a $2m regional technical assistance grant to support railway transport market research and development of a regional rail traffic model for Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) countries.

The grant will help identify and devise priority bankable investment projects. It will also help to procure expertise in financial restructuring, marketing, asset management, interoperability and railway safety.

The technical grant is aimed to help the CAREC member countries reduce dependence on roads for freight traffic movement, which increases costs and delays.

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“Railways have an important role to play in helping CAREC countries move from landlocked to land-linked.”

A regional railway system will help to increase connectivity to regional and international markets, as well as support economic growth.

ADB senior transport specialist Jurgen Sluijter said: “Railways have an important role to play in helping CAREC countries move from landlocked to land-linked.

“Rail should be the mode of choice for trade in the region and yet railways struggle to compete against road transport.

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“This grant will support the study and development of a regional rail system that is quick, efficient, accessible for customers, and easy to use throughout.”

The CAREC partnership comprises Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Mongolia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Member countries adopted the CAREC railway strategy until 2030 to carry out long-term development of railways.

Since 2001, ADB is serving as the CAREC Secretariat.