Urban public transportation in Kazakhstan is a mix of rail, public buses, and taxis—the latter two modalities providing the bulk of passenger services. Since the opening of Almaty’s iconic streetcar system in 1937 and its expansion to a 10-line network, the public rail network in Kazakhstan has lagged behind in development terms. Yet, with the newly opened Almaty Metro, and the 40 kilometer-long Astana tramline in the pipeline, public transportation in Kazakhstan is gaining new momentum. Additionally, the country is gradually replacing its obsolete public bus fleet in the larger cities to provide higher quality service in a more environmentally friendly way.
The construction of a metro system in Almaty was widely discussed in the 1970s, as Moscow dictated the construction of subway systems in cities with populations of 1 million or more. Seven years after the completion of the master plan in 1981, the construction of the Almaty Metro started in 1988. Having come to a halt in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the project resumed in 2005. In December 2011, the Almaty Metro opened with the first 8.5-kilometer portion of the First Line up and running. The metro currently consists of four deep-level and three sub-surface stations, and seven trains operate on the First Line at an average speed of 40 kilometers per hour. A five-station, 8.6-kilometer, westerly-bound extension toward the existing line is currently under construction. Three lines totaling 45 kilometers are planned. “[We are] currently building a second route that will connect downtown Almaty with the Kalkaman district, surrounding suburbs, and the Almaty-1 train station,” Murat T. Ukshebaev, Director of Almaty Metro, told TBY. “A section of the line to the train station will also run above ground.” In addition to the expansion of the Almaty Metro, the city’s tramline will be renovated by 2014, and the total cost of the project is estimated at $301 million. The Almaty Department of Passenger traffic is working on developing a PPP scheme to attract funding from private investors for the project by providing state guarantees.
In April 2011, French company Alstom was awarded the contract to build a 40-kilometer tramline in Astana, consisting of 27 stations linking the Astana International Airport to the city’s central rail station through 10 kilometers of viaducts. In July 2011, President Nazarbayev laid the foundation stone of the tramline. Construction is set to start in 2012, and will take place in three phases. The first phase consists of the portion between the airport and a newly opened Norman Foster creation in Astana, the Abu Dhabi Plaza, which will be built on the left bank of the Ishim River. Approximately 16 kilometers in length, the first phase will begin carrying passengers by 2014. The second phase will link the train station to the city center on the right bank of the river, and will include eight kilometers of track and six stations. In the third stage, a 15-kilometer track and 13 station sections will connect the two parts of the city.
CNG PUBLIC BUSES
The majority of public buses used in Almaty run on diesel and are in relatively poor technical condition. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) loaned $36 million to KGP Almatyelectrotrans (AET), one of Almaty’s 19 public transport operators, for the purchase of Yutong compressed natural gas (CNG) low-floor buses. The loan from the EBRD will be used for the purchase of 200 new environmentally friendly modern buses fueled by CNG. AET is planning to introduce bus services on up to nine routes in the city. The project is of great significance for Almaty’s public transportation sector as it will set higher environmental standards and encourage other public transport operators to improve the quality of their services.
© The Business Year