China has dispatched a first load of freight to Afghanistan on a new road and rail route transiting Central Asia which will cut travel time by several weeks.
The multimodal route starts in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province then passes through Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan before entering Afghanistan.
Cargo will travel along the first stage – around 500 kilometers from the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang to Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan – by road since there is no rail link, although one is planned eventually.
The first containers left Kashgar on September 13, the RailFreight.com website reported.
At Osh, the cargo will be loaded onto trains to link up with Uzbekistan’s rail network across the border in Andijan.
They will cross eastern Uzbekistan then head south into Afghanistan to arrive at Hairatan, which links with the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif along an Uzbek-built railway line.
The first train is crossing Uzbekistan loaded with foodstuffs, household goods and other products and is expected to arrive in Afghanistan on September 21, Uzbekistan Railways said.
That would mean it had covered the distance in just nine days.
The journey is expected to take no more than two weeks, compared to one to three months for the current route mainly used to send cargo from China to Afghanistan through Pakistan via the seaport of Karachi and overland.