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Tajik-Uzbek Rail Freight Dispute Escalates

Tajik authorities maintain that more than 300 freight cars with goods bound for Tajikistan are stranded in Uzbekistan.
DUSHANBE -- A senior Tajik railways official says Dushanbe has retaliated against the huge tariff increases imposed by Uzbekistan on rail freight bound for Tajikistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Tajik State Railroad Company deputy head Usmon Qalandarov said the transport tariff for one ton of wheat flour carried across Uzbek territory was raised from $74 in 2011 to $88.3 as of January 1.

He said the average increase on tolls for different goods is 32 percent.

Qalandarov said the total increase in tariffs could amount to $70 million annually. He maintained that Tajikistan has increased tariffs for the transit of Uzbek freight by rail across Tajikistan to try to compensate for those losses.

Qalandarov added that Tajikistan still hopes the countries will be able to reach an agreement on lowering transit fees for goods carried by train.

Qalandarov noted that the railway linking Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province with Uzbekistan's southern Surkhandaryo Province, which was cut in the fall, is still not functional, and more than 300 freight cars with goods bound for Tajikistan are stranded.

He said Tajikistan offered to pay to repair a bridge on the Ghalaba-Amuzang section of the railway in Uzbekistan that was damaged by an explosion in mid-November, but Uzbekistan rejected the offer.

Qalandarov said some 900 freight cars en route to Dushanbe have also been delayed.

The Tajik Railroad Company has repeatedly accused Uzbekistan of deliberately blocking and delaying cargo bound for Tajikistan over the past several years.

Tashkent claims it has blocked only construction materials for the disputed Roghun hydropower plant.

Read more in Tajik here