Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most transport-oriented countries, comparable to Australia and Canada. The country’s population of 16.5 million lives with a 59% urbanization rate across an area of 2.72 million square kilometers, making it the ninth largest country in the world. Economic and political centers such as Almaty, Astana, Atyrau, Aktau, and Karaganda are distant from one another, making advanced transportation infrastructure a necessity for the efficient transportation of goods and passengers. Furthermore, Kazakhstan is located between the major economies of Russia and China, which increases the country’s significance as a transit hub. Provided its geographical and demographic characteristics, transportation within and through Kazakhstan is not only central to economic growth, but also presents local and foreign investors with opportunities to make money from the resurgent Silk Road.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) manages the transport network in Kazakhstan, which amounts to approximately 15,000 kilometers of rail, over 84,000 kilometers of paved roads, and 4,400 kilometers of inland waterways. Of the 20 airports in Kazakhstan, 15 have the status of international airports and 10 have ICAO certification.
In 2010 transport and storage was equal to 8% of GDP. In 1Q2011 the sector grew by 6.5% and represented 6.9% of GDP. The sector itself posted a growth rate of an impressive 17%, and total shipped freight by all means increased from 471.5 million tons to 558.1 million tons. The majority of freight is transported by road, with 81% of all freight carried by that medium in 2010. Compared to the first quarter of 2010, sea and air transport show the highest growth rates in 2011, at 45% and 43%, respectively.
According to the Kazakhstan Statistics Agency, in 2010 some 13.2 million people were transported by various means, with road the most common method. Compared to 1Q2010, in the first quarter of 2011 the figure increased by 27% from 2.7 million to 3.45 million. The biggest increase was in air, from 642,000 to 802,000 passengers in 1Q2011.
Kazakhstan’s road network is 93,612 kilometers in length, with 84,100 kilometers of paved roads. The country is well integrated into the Asian and European motorway networks. To realize its full road transport potential the authorities have undertaken the rehabilitation of the main Almaty-Karaganda-Astana and Almaty-Bishkek highways, and the reconstruction of the Atyrau-Uralsk, Samara-Shymkent, and Krabutak and Astana-Borovoye highways. Currently, the Astana-Kostanai-Chelyabinsk highway is in the final stages of construction. Work continues on the transit corridors Omsk-Pavlodar-Maikapshagai, Almaty-Karaganda-Astana-Petropavlovsk, and the Russian border-Atyrau-Aktau-Turkmen border routes. Preparatory work is also underway on the implementation of concession projects in Astana-Karaganda, Astana-Shchuchinsk, Almaty-Khorgos, Tashkent-Shymkent, and Almaty-Kapshagay. Following the repair work on the international transit corridors, capacity is believed to have increased and traffic volume has tripled.
The development of the road sector also had a positive spillover effect on the construction materials sector. Production facilities have opened in major cities such as Astana, Almaty, and Karaganda. The roadside services sector has also grown; it is estimated that the number of service facilities on the highway network has quadrupled since 2001.
According to the MTC, the total length of the main rail network is 14,205 kilometers, 4,144 kilometers of which is electrified. Since 2001, 736 kilometers of new railways were laid, 1,450 kilometers were upgraded, and 443 kilometers were electrified. A total of 1,681 locomotives and 53,104 freight wagons operate in the country, and private companies and enterprises possess 43,305 wagons.
Between 2003 and 2010 rail freight increased from 202.7 million tons to 267.9 million tons. This represented approximately 11% of all the freight transport in Kazakhstan for 2010.
Founded in 2002, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) is the national railway company. Headquartered in Astana, it develops, operates, and maintains railway transportation in Kazakhstan. In 2010 KTZ ordered 295 electric locomotives from French company Alstom for freight and passenger services, and contracted the Spanish locomotive manufacturer Talgo to replace its fleet of 3,000 intercity vehicles.
There are five international rail corridors that criss-cross the territory of Kazakhstan. The Northern Corridor of the Trans-Asian Railway Main (TARM) connects Western Europe with China, Korea, and Japan and passes through the northern part of Kazakhstan and passes via Dostyk, Aktogai, Sayak, Mointy, Astana, and Petropavlovsk. The Southern Corridor of TARM connects Southeast Europe with China and Southeast Asia via Turkey and Iran, and passes through Dostyk, Aktogai, Almaty, Shu, Arys, and Saryagash. It then passes through Uzbekistan via Shymkent. The Central Corridor of TARM is not transcontinental, yet is of great significance for regional transit. It passes through Saryagash, Arys, Kandagach, and Ozinki. The Transport Corridor of Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) connects Eastern Europe to Central Asia via the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Caspian Sea, and passes through Dostyk, Almaty, and Aktau. The North-South Corridor connects northern Europe with the Gulf states via Russia and Iran and crosses Kazakhstan by passing through Aktau, Ural, and Atyrau, on the east coast of the Caspian Sea.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence, the Zhetygen-Korgos line, with a length of 293 kilometers and a capacity of 16.8 million tons per year was designed, along with the Uzen-Turkmen border line, with a length of 146 kilometers and a capacity of 13.2 million tons per year. The Zhetygen-Korgos railway line will facilitate the development of transit potential through the opening of the second international border railway junction.
At the same time it will reduce the distance from China to the southern regions of Kazakhstan and the Persian Gulf by 500 kilometers. The line that is set to connect Uzen with the Turkmen border will connect Kazakhstan and the Gulf through Iran and Turkmenistan. This direction is an alternative land route and reduces the overall distance by 500 kilometers.
The construction of the Beineu-Zhezkazgan line is a part of the 2020 Strategic Plan. The project will create direct access to goods from the central and west Dostyk regions of Kazakhstan and reduce the distance significantly compared to the existing route. The estimated project implementation period is 2015-2019.
Almaty, Astana, and Atyrau airports are the largest airports in the country and are the only international and domestic hubs. Currently 40 airlines and 18 operators are registered in Kazakhstan.
Between 2003 and 2010 transportation of goods by air increased from 24,213 tons to 28,870 tons. In the same period the transportation of passengers grew almost three fold from 1.28 million to 3.38 million. In 2010, 97% of air cargo was carried through Almaty Airport, which also hosted 2.6 million passengers. Almaty Airport’s multi-modal freight terminal is the largest in Central Asia. It was completed in 2006 with a view to promoting Almaty as a cargo hub in the Asia-Europe-Asia direction. The freight terminal is 28,000 sqm in size and offers covered storage facilities for large size freight, sufficient loading-unloading facilities, and parking spaces for heavy haulers. Also, the terminal has cold storage areas with a total volume of 240 cubic meters with a temperature control of 10 to -18 °C.
Established in 2001, the Kazakhstani national flag carrier—Air Astana—has quickly become the most prominent actor in Kazakhstan’s civil aviation industry. Air Astana currently operates with 24 aircraft. Over the 2011-2013 period the company plans to acquire 10 new aircraft, including three Embraer-190s, one Boeing 757, and six Airbus-320s. Air Astana flies to some 50 domestic and international destinations.
In Kazakhstani civil aviation helicopters are expected to become increasingly popular in the oil and gas sector with the development of the Caspian shelf. The use of helicopters for offshore oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example of how much helicopter aviation can develop in Kazakhstan over the coming years. Over the past two years Kazakhstani airline companies purchased some 15 helicopters from Western manufacturers such as Eurocopter, AgustaWestland, and Bell.
Situated on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, the port of Aktau is the only ice-free seaport in Kazakhstan and is a strategic point for international routes. The port is aimed at the international shipping of different dry cargos, crude oil, and oil products. The port also stands out as a hub for several modes of transport such as rail, road, water, and pipeline. Furthermore, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project has opened up opportunities for oil shipment via Aktau Port.
Aktau Port is also located on the TRACECA international cargo traffic route, a project aimed at developing the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor. The port is the first link in the Asian direction. Aktau Port has the capacity to handle 10 million tons of oil shipments, 1.5 million tons of general bulk cargo, and 24,000 TEUs annually. In order to develop maritime transport in Kazakhstan, Kazmortransflot was created in 1998. The main aims of the company are to create a national merchant marine fleet, which facilitates the integration of water-based transport into the global transportation system. Since 2005, the company has been handling oil tankers of up to 12,000 DWT to support maritime operations through the construction of barges, platforms, and the acquisition of main tugs. Furthermore, in 2005-2010, nine 12-13 DWT tankers were built by the company, eight of which are currently engaged in the transportation of Caspian oil. In 2010, in cooperation with Nico International and Caspian Services, Kazmortransflot opened a plant with a capacity of 50-60 ships per year for repair. The plant is designed to repair small vessels up to 60 meters and 600 tons, and to carry out the maintenance of vessels in the North Caspian Sea.
© The Business Year