China’s bid to expand its economic presence in Eurasia – embodied in its “Belt and Road” initiative – requires a major upgrade of railway capacity, especially in Central Asia. Planning and implementing the upgrade entails significant challenges involving coordination, both domestically among various Chinese state agencies and entities, and internationally between China and Central Asian states.
The railway component of the Belt and Road is ambitious, with an abundance of moving parts. The concept relies on three trunk lines running through Central Asia. West Passage 1 exits from Xinjiang’s Alashankou (Khorgos), runs to Kazakhstan and moves on to a junction with Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. From there, the route can extend to the European Union via Belarus.
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