The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Alikhan Smailov, launched the construction works for Almaty rail bypass as part of country’s strategy to develop its transit potential on Eurasian transport corridors.
The project covers the construction of a new railway line between Zhetygen, 50 km north of Almaty, and Kazybek Beka, 90 km northwest of the city centre.
The 1520mm-gauge railway line will bypass the Almaty central station and will reduce the traffic on the Almaty hub by 40% and cargo delivery by 24 hours.
The project includes the construction of 130 km of new tracks of which 77 km is the main track, three switches, 13 bridges, 5 rail overpasses and one road crossing, all of these requiring 228,000 domestic manufactured sleepers, and 16,000 tonnes of rail.
Along the new line, three stops will be built which will “connect the transit route from Altynkol to Europe, Central Asia and towards the ports of the Caspian Sea. This new railway line will significantly reduce the transit time,” said Kanat Almagambetov, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of KTZ.
Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) says that the project will create about 1,400 new jobs and nearly 500 in the operational phase.
Due to the increase of rail freight transport between Kazakhstan and China, the “Almaty railway junction experienced increased traffic and became crowded. This situation will be corrected by launching the construction of Zhetygen – Kazybek bypass rail route. The successful execution of this project will substantially cut down the delivery time for freight transport by two times,” the Prime Minister said.
Alikhan Smailov explained that on this transit corridor, the Almaty railway junction provides train traffic in four directions. One of the directions is to Shu, a city in Jambyl Region of Kazakhstan, which has borders with Kyrgyzstan, and is very near to Uzbekistan. Another direction is ensured to Aktogay, in the East Kazakhstan Region which is a major railway hub of Turkestan – Siberian Railway, connecting Central Asia with Siberia. Altynkol is another important direction which is located in Khorgos and create an essential border crossing facilitating the trade between Kazakhstan and China. The Khorgos border area (Khorgos–East Gate) in the Panfilov district, in Almaty region is situated 1 km from Kazakhstan’s border and China’s border city Khorgos and is 90 km away from the nearest major city of Ili-Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture – Yining, and 670 km away from the administrative capital of Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region – Urumqi.
Almaty-2 station, which is close to the city centre and is mainly intended for passenger tansport is another rail traffic direction which will benefit the new railway line.
Kazakhstan Temir Zholy says that in recent years, the rail freight transport between Kazakhstan and China increased, in 2022 reaching a historical volume of more than 23 million tonnes. Since the beginning of 2023, the figure has increased by 22% and in the conditions of rapidly growing traffic volumes, the Almaty rail bypass located at the crossroads of major international routes is essential to attract more traffic to railways transiting the country.
In the last ten months, grain transport into China through Dostyk and Altynkol border crossings amounted to about 1.5 million tonnes, increasing four times compared to 2021-2022. Grain loading through the Dostyk station increased almost three times and amounted to over 1 million tonnes, and through the Altynkol station by 11 times, to 396,000 tonnes.
To ensure uninterrupted export of domestic products and transit of goods, KTZ is actively working on infrastructure development. To increase capacity, second tracks are being built on the Dostyk – Moyynty rail section and in the future, it is planned to start the construction of Darbaza – Maktaaral and Bakhty – Ayagoz railway lines. These lines are to be collectively spanning 1,300 km and construction works are expected to be carried out in the next three years.
During a governmental meeting held on November 17, 2023, where transport and transit potential issues were discussed, the Minister of Transport Marat Karabayev said that 13 international transport corridors have been created and are functioning in Kazakhstan, of which 5 are rail corridors and eight road corridors. In the last 10 months, the volume of rail transit increased by 19% to 22.5 million tonnes of cargo. The minister also emphasised that works are carried out to develop transit potential and include the modernisation of border checkpoints, the development of the mainline railway network, the locomotive fleet and increase the capacity of junction points.
Kazakhstan is also committed to develop the Trans-Caspian international transport route and seaports on the Caspian Sea and intends to create a multimodal transit corridor on Russia – Kazakhstan – China route.