International Transport Corridors in Kazakhstan: Study

22 августа 2011, 14:05

Transport corridors are major routes that involve intermodal technologies, various combinations of transport and loading capacities.

Railway transport is the most promising type of transportation in Kazakhstan. It is responsible for transportation of 70% of all the foreign freights across the territory of Kazakhstan.  The share of automobile transport in transit transportation is small.

Four major international transport corridors cross the territory of Kazakhstan:

·   Northern corridor of the Trans Asian Railway (TAR): Western Europe – China, Korea and Japan via Russia and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s section: Dostyk – Aktogai – Sayak – Mointy – Astana – Petropavlovsk;

·   Southern corridor of the Trans Asian Railway (TAR): South-Eastern Europe – China and South-Eastern Asia via Turkey, Iran, Central Asian counties and Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s section: Dostyk – Aktogai – Almaty – Shu – Arys – Saryagash;

·  Transport Corridor Europe-Caucuses-Asia (TRACECA): Eastern Europe – Central Asia via the Black Sea, Caucuses and the Caspian Sea. Kazakhstan’s section: Dostyk – Almaty – Aktau;

·   The North-South:  Northern Europe – Persian Gulf countries via Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s sections: Port of Aktau – Russia’s Ural regions, Aktau - Atyrau.

In-country flows are the flows that originate in Kazakhstan and are destined for Kazakhstan. Import flows are the flows that originate in a foreign country and are destined for Kazakhstan. Export flows are the flows that originate in Kazakhstan and are destined for a foreign country. Transit cargos are the cargos that originate in a foreign country and are destined for a foreign country, they just cross through Kazakhstan. 


The main part of TRACECA route runs across Georgia, Azerbaijan and continues into Central Asia via the Caspian Sea. But the route does not equal to the hopes: it is geographically complicated plus there are a lot of borders to cross on the way across 14 member-countries of the corridor. Many experts view TRACECA as an unpromising route nowadays.

Northern corridor of TAR lies across industrialized regions with high export potentials in Kazakhstan. It is considered one of the most promising routes in Kazakhstan. Besides servicing in-country cargo flows, Kazakh sections of the route are 40% loaded with export- or import-oriented freights and 10% loaded with transit freights. The amount of transit is insignificant because of the availability of other highly competitive routes in the region, including sea routes. In the short term, growth of the transit cargo flows along the Northern corridor of TAR is expected to be driven by the increasing China-Russian and China-Europe transit.

Southern corridor of TAR is also prone to complications. This is especially true for its 2010km Iranian section that is a single-track line with Diesel operation.  Another complication is caused by transshipment at the Turkish border to cross Lake Van on a ferry.

The North-South route crosses the Trans-Siberian Railroad, northern corridor of TAR and the Volga-Don Canal. At present the route mostly services the needs of Russia’s bilateral trade with Iran and other countries. Attachment of Kazakhstan to the route by means of the Aktau Sea Port would let Kazakhstan capitalize on the transit potential of its western regions and become a transit route for the Russia’s Ural regions and Central Asia.


Kazakh national railway operator Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) has developed a plan to construct Trans-Kazakhstan Railroad from Dostyk station at Chinese border to the border on Turkmenistan. The route could then continue into Turkmenistan to the Iranian railway main and on to Europe through Turkey. To avoid reloading at the border and reduce transportation costs KTZ is planning to use the 1435mm gauge common for Europe and China (as opposite to the wide 1520mm gauge used at the post-soviet space).

The KTZ-backed Trans-Kazakhstan Railroad would allow for additional 35 million tons of transit cargos and 20 million tons of export cargos. The route connecting China and Europe via Kazakhstan would be half the length of the sea route and 1000 km shorter than the similar route via Russia. This creates good chances of large cargo flows through Kazakhstan. But since KTZ wants to use the narrow European gauge to avoid reloading, Kazakhstan’s existing railway fleet would not be eligible for the new route.



                                                                   Source: Khorgos - Eastern Gates project feasibility study

Western Europe – Western China auto corridor could become a viable transport connection between Central Asian region and Europe that would also provide access from China and South-East Asia to western regions of Russia and further into Europe.

The corridor’s route: St.Petersburg (Russia) – Moscow – Nizhni Novgorod – Kazan – Orenburg –Aktobe (Kazakhstan) – Kyzylorda – Shymkent – Taraz – Korday – Almaty – Khorgos – Urumchi (China) – Lanzhou – Changzhou – Lianyungang. The overall length of the corridor is 8.5 thousand km. The length of its Kazakh section that crosses 5 oblasts (Aktobe, Kyzylorda, South Kazakhstan, Zhambyl and Almaty oblasts) makes 2.8 thousand km, 2.45 thousand of these roads have to be reconstructed.

Construction of the 8 500-km-long motor road corridor started in 2007; it is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

Works at the Kazakh section are expected to be completed in 2012. Construction cost of the Kazakh section is estimated at 825 billion tenge ($5.7 billion). Two thirds of the cost is funded from loans extended by international financial organizations on the guarantee of the Kazakhstan government. 

The 10-day-long auto route is expected to draw part of the cargo flows from China away from the sea route. But the possible share of the new route in the cargo flows it is so far unclear. There are two main drawbacks: 1. sea transportation is cheaper and crosses no state borders, 2. German railway major Deutsche Bahn is planning to establish a regular freight railway connection with China via new 16-day-route. The route will lie to the south of Mongolia via Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland. Should the demand be high, the route will start operating this year.

It takes 45 days to transport cargoes from West China to West Europe or back using the current maritime route. Using the Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway – a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan, the longest railway in the world – cargoes can be delivered within 14 days. The new motor corridor will enable to cut the shipment time from China’s Lianyungang to Russia’s St. Petersburg down to 10 days.

Benefits, barriers and implications:

  1. Trans-Kazakhstan Railroad could help liven up Kazakh businesses, create new jobs, improve the infrastructure and make Kazakhstan’s investment climate more attractive. But to make the project successful coordination among all the member-countries is crucially important: common tariffs should be introduced, legal based should be harmonized.
  2. Lack of transport and logistics infrastructure in Kazakhstan complicates cargo transportation and negatively influences the country’s economy as a whole. To make transportation along the North-South route feasible a commercial fleet at the Caspian Sea is required.
  3. There is a number of barriers hindering   transport flows. The so called physical barriers are bad roads, outdated railway fleet, low capacity of border passes and logistics centers. Human barriers include delays at border crossing and duties collected by authorities. This could be straightened out by making Kazakhstan transportation sector more competitive and brining its technical level in line with international standards.
  4. Active government policies aimed at attracting transit flows to the countries territories could do a lot for the sector. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are currently pursuing projects to access China around Kazakhstan.  Russia is an already exiting competitor for Kazakhstan. It has already got the well-established Trans-Siberian Railway and is working hard to reduce its transportation time. Kazakhstan can also loose the battle for the North-South route, because now Russia in working to reconstruct its Olya sea port at the Caspian Sea (instead of Kazakhstan’s Aktau). And it is quite obvious that foreign investors are going to pursue that route that would paid off faster.
  5. Lack of customs and tariff agreements with most of the countries along transcontinental and regional transport routes also creates barriers for smooth cargo flows along the routes. Greater flexibility of tariff policies is required amid the present day competition.





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