DUSHANBE, March 15, 2011, Asia-Plus  -- Tajik railroad company, Rohi Ohani Tojikiston (Tajik Railways), has recently suspended trains running from Dushanbe to the northern city of Konibodom.

Vladimir Sobkalov, the first deputy head of Tajik Railways, told Asia-Plus today a train service between Dushanbe and Konibodom has been suspended due to a sharp decrease in passenger traffic.

According to him, in order to be profitable the train must consist at least of 17 passenger cars, “while we have been forced to reduce the number of passenger cars on this route to seven in recent years.”

He added that the railroad company has repeatedly lowered fares on that route but those measures have not yielded any tangible results.

Sobkalov also attributes decrease in passenger traffic on this route to rehabilitation of the Dushanbe-Khujand highway and construction of the Anzob Road Tunnel.  The major improvements to the highway have led many travelers to go by car instead of train.  “Now travel from Dushanbe to Khujand by car takes 5 to 8 hours, while travel from Dushanbe to Khujand by train takes at least 32 hours,” said the Tajik Railways official, “Therefore, people prefer motor transport.”

He denied speculations of some experts that the route has allegedly been suspended because of Tajikistan’s strained relations with Uzbekistan as “baseless.”  “There is no any political motive for shutting down of the Dushanbe-Konibodom route,” Sobkalov said, noting that the route will be resumed as soon as passenger traffic increases.

In the meantime, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service reported yesterday that Usmon Qalandrov, deputy head of Tajik Railways, says 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.

We will recall that at present Tajik Railways offers three routes to the Russian Federation (Dushanbe-Moscow, Kulob-Moscow, Khujand-Saratov) and four domestic routes (Dushanbe-Konibodom, Qurghon Teppa-Konibodom, Dushanbe-Pakhtaobod and Qurghon Teppa-Kulob).

As of October 2010, Tajikistan’s rolling-stock included 2,128 cargo cars, 389 passenger carriages and 55 diesel locomotives.  The total length of rails in Tajikistan is 950 kilometers; of that, 680 kilometers are the main railways.  At present there are 33 railway stations in the republic.