Located in the heart of the Eurasian continent, the development of modern transport infrastructure with international connectivity is of extreme importance for the realization of Kazakhstan’s full potential as a transit hub. Hence, the country is continuously working on integration into European and Asian regional transport systems, and is participating actively in the development of international transport corridors such as the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA), and the North-South and Trans-Asian Railway. Kazakhstan has also established cooperation with its neighbors through such forums as the CIS Eurasian Economic Union and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) to facilitate transit transport in its territory through enhanced regional integration.
The Western Europe-Western China transcontinental road corridor stands out among ongoing projects due to its magnitude and intercontinental significance. The corridor will stretch out over a distance of an impressive 8,445 kilometers, connecting St Petersburg with Lianyungang, a coastal city in Eastern China. When completed, the economies of China and Southeast Asia will be connected to the western regions of Russia and Europe through Kazakhstan’s territory.
Currently, transporting goods from China to Europe takes between 15 and 45 days through the Suez Canal by sea or via the TransSib road. When the Corridor is put into operation it will become the foremost freight artery of Central Asia, and transit times will be shortened to between 10 and 11 days. The freight volume passing via Kazakhstani highways is expected to increase from 0.9 million tons at present to 3.5 million tons.
Around 2,800 kilometers of the corridor pass through five regions of the country, including Aktobe, Kyzylorda, South Kazakhstan, Zhambyl, and the Almaty region, including Almaty city, where 7.5 million inhabitants, almost half of the country’s population, live. Approximately 2,450 kilometers of this section will be rebuilt, half of which is designed as a two-lane first-class highway and the other half, near urban and populous areas, will be built with four lanes. On September 10, 2009, President Nazarbayev announced that construction on the Kazakhstani section of the Western Europe-Western China International Transit Corridor had formally begun. The whole project is to be completed by 2013. Currently, construction is underway at 29 sites, stretching over 1,600 kilometers.
The cost of the project is currently estimated at $6.7 billion. In addition to the national budget, it is to be financed through loans from international financial institutions such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, among others. As a third financial source the government plans to attract private investments on a concessionary base. In that regard, the section from Khorgos to Almaty, at 340 kilometers long, is calling for bids on a franchise basis, which will be valid for 25 years.
© The Business Year