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Sunday 27 January 2013

Turkmenistan to Complete North-South Railway Independently


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President Berdimuhamedov signed a number of documents on January 17 that will enable the Turkmen domestic railway to complete construction of a new north-south railway from Gyzlgaya to Bereket and Ertek following the failure by Iranian contractor Pars Energy to complete work on the Bereket-Etrek section on time.

Pars Energy had won the $696 mln contract to build the Turkmen stretch of the new 900 km railway that is to link Kazakhstan with northern Iran through Turkmenistan. But in Last September, the Turkmenistan government said that the Iranian contractor would fail to complete the project by December 2012 “despite the Turkmen side being on time and fulfilling its partnership commitments.” Following consultations with Tehran, it decided to terminate the contract with the company which it had awarded in January 2010.

Some analysts think that the decision of Turkmenistan is more motivated by political pressures received from USA than economic considerations. Indeed, a US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks from 2010 quoted accusations that Pars Energy was closely linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards although this has not been officially confirmed.

The resolutions signed by Berdimuhamedov include completion of construction of the Bereket-Etrek section of the line and a locomotive depot at Bereket station.

The project is part of a larger scheme to build a line that will link Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and according to the Economic Cooperation Organisation, an intergovernmental organisation representing 10 countries in the region, the Turkmen section is more than 50% complete. Preliminary forecasts state that up to five million tonnes of freight per year will be transported on the line when it opens and it is hoped that this will eventually increase to 10-12 mln tonnes.

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