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DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan's railroad company has suspended trains traveling from the capital, Dushanbe, to the northern city of Khujand, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Usmon Qalandarov, a deputy head of Tajikistan's railroad company, said today the shutting down of the route is due to a lack of passengers, long delays when the train transits a part of Uzbekistan, and the completion of improvements to a highway to Khujand.

He added that in order to be profitable the train needed to carry at least 300 passengers, but it usually had no more than 10.

The network -- which was built during the Soviet era -- is problematic for Tajikistan because of its poor relations with Uzbekistan and the difficulty in becoming profitable.

Qalandarov said the railroad company proposed the construction of a Dushanbe-Tursunzoda-Khujand rail line which would be 260 kilometers long and almost four times shorter than the present route to Khujand.

Another main reason for the small number of passengers on the Dushanbe-Khujand route is the reconstruction of the mountainous Dushanbe-Khujand highway, built by Chinese engineers, and the construction of a tunnel through the Anzob Gorge by an Iranian company.

The major improvements to the highway have led many travelers to go by car instead of train.