2022 annual review of Kazakhstan’s transportation sector

Kazakhstan Materials 28 December 2022 15:34 (UTC +04:00)
Emin Sevdimaliyev
Emin Sevdimaliyev
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, December 28. Kazakhstan took steps to address some of the challenges it had in the transportation sector in 2022 and reached important milestones for the further development of this field, Trend reports.

The vast territory of Kazakhstan exceeds 2.7 million square kilometers. The population density is low in Kazakhstan, and the centers of industry and agriculture are spread out and remote from world markets.

Considering the above-mentioned factors, transportation becomes a critical sector of the economy of country. The current conditions of Kazakhstan's transportation sector transformations are as follows:

Road transport

The major transportation project currently being implemented is the Big Almaty Ring Road (BAKAD). The overall value of the project is approximately $743 million. The operating period of the project is estimated to be 16 years.

The project commenced in 2018, although the start the project has been postponed at least once due to the global financial crisis in 2008.

The BAKAD will be a ring road forming the intersection of the international road corridors running along the Khorgos-Almaty-Bishkek-Taraz-Shymkent-Tashkent (known as the Silk Road) and Almaty-Karaganda-Astana-Petropavlovsk routes. The road will consist of a 57 kilometer 6-lane section and a 9 kilometer 4-lane section.

The project is set to be completed in the second half of 2023 according to Tolegen Abdullin, Chairman of the Committee for Roads of the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development of Kazakhstan.

Abdullin stated that upon the commissioning of the 66-kilometer-long BAKAD road, the transit and transportation potential of Kazakhstan will increase.

“Implementing the project will also decrease the traffic in the city, offer alternative routes and improve the ecologic situation,” the chairman of the committee said.

Kazakhstan is also looking to amend existing legislation in the field of transport transit. Starting from 2023 Kazakhstan will increase the tariff on toll roads for transit carriers next year. Kairbek Uskenbaev, the Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development, said that the requirement for this category will be tightened

Speaking on the sidelines of the government meeting, the minister added that the tariffs for Kazakhstanis on toll roads will remain the same.

In terms of reconstruction and repair works, Kazakhstan decided to start using drones for inspecting bridge and road infrastructure conditions. The change is going to take place starting from early 2023.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development of Kazakhstan, the number of bridge constructions in Kazakhstan exceeds 2,000, and each construction has to be inspected every 3–5 years.

The drones will make the inspection process quicker, cheaper, and safer for all parties. Additionally, this approach will enable the country to create digital maps of the relevant areas.

Railroad transport

The importance of railroad transportation remains paramount in Kazakhstan. In 2022, Kazakhstan commenced several important projects in this field, including the construction of the Dostyk-Moyinti railway.

Speaking at a ministerial meeting earlier this year, Uskenbayev noted that the issues of opening a third border crossing on the border between Kazakhstan and China and the construction of a new Bakhty-Ayagoz railway line have also been worked out.

"A feasibility study for the project is currently being developed. It is envisaged that 80 percent of the funds will be provided by the Eurasian Development Bank, while the other 20 percent - by Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (Kazakhstan Railways)," the minister added.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also agreed to speed up the construction of the 106 kilometer long Darbaza - Maktaaral railroad, with subsequent access to the Syrdarya station. The agreement was reached by Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the framework of the visit of the Kazakh Head of State to Uzbekistan.

“Kazakh companies are prepared for the active participation of the various transport communications and supply the necessary materials”, Tokayev said. He also added the construction of the railroad will unload the Saryagash checkpoint.

In terms of transport cooperation with regional states, Kazakhstan expressed that it is ready to participate in the construction of the Trans-Afghan railroad.

The Minister of Trade and Integration of Kazakhstan Serik Zhumangarin stated that Kazakhstan is interested in the successful implementation of the project and willing to consider different possibilities for its participation, including supplying materials.

According to the Kazakh minister, cooperation in this field will increase the transit potential of both countries and open new avenues for bilateral cooperation.

In late December, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev highlighted the role of Kazakhstan in the North-South corridor. Kazakh president added that the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railroad is an important element for the realization of the transport route. Speaking at the CIS leaders’ summit, the Kazakh Head of State noted that it is necessary to bolster transport cooperation between the CIS states.

While Kazakhstan achieved a lot in terms of cooperation with other states, certain developments with major transportation companies also deserve the readers’ attention.

Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ) and Stadler have signed three long-term contracts for the supply of 537 sleeper and couchette coaches, including a 20-year full-service contract.

The total contract covers the manufacturing and service of the sleeper and couchette coaches, totaling 2.3 billion Euros. The contract also includes the transfer of technology from Switzerland to Kazakhstan and the acquisition of a local production facility in Astana.

“The gradual transfer of technology, the training of local personnel at other Stadler plants, as well as the cooperation with local suppliers and technical universities provide the foundation of this international collaboration,” Stadler said in a statement.

The delivery will take place by 2030 and there is an option for additional orders to continue the modernization of the KTZ fleet.

Another major agreement was signed between Finland’s Nurminen Logistics and KTZ, which enabled the Finnish transport and logistics company to launch regular and high speed shuttling service to and from Kazakhstan. The TransCaspian Express services the Altynkol, Kazakhstan – Poti or Batumi, Georgia route three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Regular and scheduled service shortens the delivery time from China, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to Europe, which enables customers to streamline the supply chain and increase flexibility.

Air transport

Kazakhstan continued to develop its air transportation capabilities in 2022 with significant developments lined up for 2023.

First, Kazakhstan’s SCAT air carrier will launch flights from Almaty to Pakistan’s capital Islamabad and Karachi.

Alisher Abdykadyrov, Deputy Mayor of Almaty, said that the talks between Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia have also taken place in 2022.

“Representatives of a Saudi Arabian low-cost flight operator have already announced their intention to launch direct and regular flights,” Abdykadyrov noted.

The city official said that the relevant authorities are holding talks with representatives of Japan and Israel as well. Another potential destination, which will become available, is Malaysia.

Kazakhstan also intends to launch additional flights to Azerbaijan during the spring/summer of 2023.

The expansion of the geography of flights is a part of the strategy aimed at turning Kazakhstan into a more attractive tourist destination, financial capital of the region, as well as transportation and logistics center.

The country’s airlines expanded their air fleets significantly to keep up with the increased demand and service the new flight destinations.

Kazakhstani air carriers received a total of 12 planes since August. Planes have a capacity ranging from 166 to 213 seats, depending on the model and specification.

Rapid purchasing of planes is a part of the Kazakh airlines' strategy to expand the air fleet, which is intended to decrease the number of delays and improve the level of service.

Previously, the relevant authorities of Kazakhstan stated that one of the major problems of air transportation is a large number of delays. Acquiring new planes will, at least partly, eliminate this problem.

Currently, Kazakhs can fly direct flights to 29 countries of the world. Domestic flights are operated by 5 local airlines on 57 routes, with a frequency of 687 flights per week.

Kazakh airlines carried about 9 million passengers in 10 months this year, which is 16 percent more than in the same period last year. Precisely, the passenger traffic of Air Astana amounted to about 3.4 million people, FlyArystan – about 2.6 million people, SCAT – 2.4 million people, and Qazaq air – 500,000 people.

Maritime transport

The volume of cargo transshipment via Kazakhstan’s seaports considerably grew from January through September 2022.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development of Kazakhstan, nearly 1.38 million tons of cargo were transshipped via Aktau and Kuryk seaports during the specified period, up by 2.4 times (versus 565,000 tons in the first nine months of last year).

Meanwhile, the volume of container shipment increased by 54 percent, equaling 27,399 TEU (compared to 17,833 TEU from January through September 2021).

Currently, there are three operating seaports in Kazakhstan - Aktau, Bautino, and Kuryk, which provide services to ships of different capacities.

Aktau International Commercial Sea Port is located on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea at the intersection of several international transport corridors.

Bautino сargo port is a division of Aktau International Commercial Sea Port and is located in Bautino village.

Kuryk Port is also located on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, south of Aktau city. The port has direct access to the railway and is located in a natural bay, a gulf that provides favorable weather conditions for its operation. In this regard, the port is able to receive car and rail ferries all year round.

Cooperation with international partners:

In the framework of the transport sector improvement and modernization, Kazakhstan has also cooperated with international partners and institutions.

In 2022, Kazakhstan, together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), launched a series of initiatives aimed to hasten the transformation of the transportation sector.

Currently, the EBRD is reviewing a modernization project at Aktau port. According to the available documentation, the London-based bank is considering providing a loan of $15 million to the JSC National Company Aktau Sea Commercial Port.

The loan proceeds will be used to finance Aktau Port's modernization through the acquisition and installation of equipment and related infrastructure to increase the port's cargo handling capacity. The final approval decision on the allocation of the funds will be made on 8 February 2023.

The EBRD and KTZ have signed an agreement on the bond investment of 45.8 billion Kazakh tenge (around $99.3 million) in favor of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy.

Additionally, the EBRD has also cooperated with private companies by allocating significant resources to provide opportunities for improving the transportation sector of Kazakhstan. The implementation of these projects will further supplement the efforts of the government in the field of transportation policy.

Kazakhstan also collaborates with other organizations, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Currently, the ADB implements Almaty-Bishkek Economic Corridor Support Phase 2, which is aimed at boosting cooperation in several areas, including transportation, healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure. Phase 2 of the project entails spending around $1.9 million on boosting cooperation in the above-mentioned fields.