Reconnecting Asia is tracking developments across a vast landmass that includes 60 percent of the global economy. Every day, new infrastructure projects are announced, some are advanced, and others encounter obstacles. Here is a selection of the top projects to watch in 2018.
Georgia’s “project of the century” will enter its first phase of development in 2018. Once completed, it will be the country’s largest port and serve as the main trade gateway for approximately 17 million inhabitants of landlocked Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Astana Light Rail
Originally planned for completion in 2010, the construction of this 18-station metro in Kazakhstan’s capital city is set for completion in December 2018. After receiving a loan from the China Development Bank in 2015, the project has become a key symbol of Kazakhstan’s efforts to link its domestic program “Nurly Zhol,” or “path to the future,” with China’s Belt and Road initiative.
Budapest-Belgrade High-Speed Railway
Tenders for the Hungarian segment of this 350-kilometer rail link, which connects the capitals of Hungary and Serbia, are set to be announced in early 2018. As one of the few Chinese-funded infrastructure projects to get off the ground within the European Union, the Budapest-Belgrade high-speed rail has been branded a flagship project for China’s 16+1 format.
The first phase of this Iranian port, financed by India as part of a trilateral agreement with Afghanistan, was inaugurated in December 2017. India, which currently holds a 10-year concession for the project, is expected to operate Phase I of the port while also providing funding for Phase II, which includes the development of a special economic zone.
China-Belarus Great Stone Industrial Park
Construction will continue in 2018 for this industrial park, which is a symbol of China’s growing involvement in Central and Eastern Europe. Advertised as the “pearl of the Silk Road Economic Belt,” this project will be the largest Chinese-established industrial park in Europe, occupying approximately 80-square kilometers.
Tunneling through the mountains of Yunnan Province, this ¥100 million-per-kilometer project is a key piece of China’s Belt and Road initiative in Southeast Asia, linking southern China with Myanmar and markets beyond. With construction resuming in late 2017 after a significant halt, this railway should finally make headway in 2018.
This highly-publicized port is scheduled to become fully operational in early 2018. It is considered the crown jewel of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
In December 2017, Sri Lanka formally transferred a majority stake in Hambantota Port to China Merchant Ports Holdings on a 99-year lease agreement. The transition is expected to boost economic development in 2018 and beyond, due to plans for a new economic zone designed to draw foreign investment, industrialization, and tourism.
Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge
Expected to open in January 2018 after a series of delays, this highly-publicized series of bridges and tunnels represents a feat of modern engineering. The bridge connects the port cities of Hong Kong and Macao, two Special Administrative Regions, with Zhuhai in Mainland China.
Kuala Lumpur – Singapore High-Speed Railway
This highly-anticipated rail line is expected to cut travel time between the capital cities of Malaysia and Singapore from over 5 hours to around 90 minutes. Tendering for the project opened in December 2017 and should be finalized in 2018. The line will advance China’s plan to develop a system of high-speed railways across Southeast Asia.
Lach Huyen International Gateway Port
The Lach Huyen port will near its first phase of completion in 2018 and is notable for being both the first major port located in Northern Vietnam as well as one of the first successful public-private partnerships brokered between the Vietnamese and Japanese governments.
Lahore Orange Line Metro Project
This Chinese built-and-funded project will be the first-ever light rail line in Pakistan. It is scheduled to open in 2018 as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Melaka Port Project
This Malaysian port aims to boost bilateral trade, shipping, and logistics along China’s New Silk Road, vying with Singapore for the role of the region’s main transshipment point.
Moscow-Kazan High-Speed Rail Line
This project could be a bellwether for attempts to link China’s Belt and Road with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. With an anticipated completion date sometime in 2022, and design and survey work for the project still underway, 2018 will be an important year to watch for progress.
Mumbai- Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor
India’s first ever high-speed rail, this 508-kilometer railway is set to begin construction in 2018. Upon completion, it is expected to reduce travel time between the cities of Mumbai and Ahmedabad from 8 hours to 2 hours. Japan has provided a sizeable low-interest loan as well as technical expertise for the railway, which is touted as a hallmark of India-Japan friendship.
The largest development project in Bangladesh, this project was stalled when the World Bank and the ADB revoked funding in June 2012 and February 2013 following a corruption investigation. The project resumed construction in December 2015 and is estimated to be completed sometime in 2018.
Pulau Muara Besar Bridge
Slated for completion in April 2018, this project is Brunei’s first cross-sea bridge. It will link the Brunei-Muara District in western Brunei and Pulau Muara Besar in eastern Brunei with a two-way, four-lane highway.
The Tavrida highway, which will connect three major cities on the Crimean peninsula, is one of several Russian mega-projects on the annexed territory. Two lanes of the four-lane highway are scheduled to open in 2018.