Turkmenistan opens new railway line

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov on Friday inaugurated a new railway line linking the Central Asian nation's north and south.

The 540-kilometer (335-mile) line cuts 700 kilometers (435 miles) off the route leading from the capital Ashgabat to the northern city of Dashoguz, replacing a route through neighboring Uzbekistan that was built when the two countries were both part of the Soviet Union.

"In the future, this railway line will become one of the main transit routes for shipping cargo from the Caucasus, Asia and Far East to the Persian Gulf countries," Niyazov said after the northern and southern sections of the line were joined at the Ichoguz station in the middle of the Kara Kum desert.

Construction took six years and cost US$2 billion ( Ђ 1.6 million), Niyazov said.

The gas-rich desert nation borders Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, reports the AP.


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