The first railway in Uzbekistan reached Samarqand in 1888 by a bridge over the Amu Darya river from Chardzhou (present day Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan). Uzbekistan was then part of the Transcaspia province of the Russian Empire, and the line was built to Russian standard gauge of 1524mm (later 1520mm), as were subsequent lines in the country.
Uzbekistan has international connections with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. As a result of border disputes, the links with Turkmenistan were closed for several years in the early 21st century. The link with Kyrgyzstan closed around 2010 for similar reasons; it reopened in 2018.
A short international link with Afghanistan was opened by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but closed on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The link was reinstated in 2001, and is being extended on the Afghan side of the border.
In 2016, an important new railway was opened providing a direct connection between the capital Toshkent and the second city of Namangan, bypassing the previous route through northern Tajikistan. The new line runs between Angren and Pap, a distance of 124km, including a 19km tunnel under the Qamchiq Pass.
A 355km railway connecting Navoi, north of Bukhara, with Miskin, near the Turkmen border, was opened in 2017 for diesel hauled freight trains. Electrification and passenger services will follow in due course.
In 2017, it was announced that a new 71km railway, primarily for commuter use, would be built circling Toshkent.
In 2022, a feasibility study was initiated for a new standard gauge line from a connection with the Chinese rail network at Kashgar, China, via Osh, Kyrgyzstan, to Andijon. The section from Osh to Andijon would parallel or replace the existing 1520mm gauge line. About 50km of the new line would be in Uzbekistan.
© 2004-2022 Glyn Williams
Photo image by Koshekans from Wikimedia Commons