Astana answers mobility challenges by building its light rail system

As capital of Kazakhstan (since 1997), the city of Astana becomes every day more important for investors in transport infrastructure development. The international events to be held in Astana (for example, EXPO 2017) encourage the development of economic sectors and create new opportunities for the business segment. During project development, the authorities will rehabilitate the existing transport infrastructure and will develop new projects to optimize traffic and promote public transport use. The programme also includes the construction of a light rail line with a total length of 42 km.

Astana is an urban centre which experiences a rapid population growth seeing the number of its citizens double since 1997 when the city became the capital of Kazakhstan.  According to estimates, population will reach 1.3 million in 2030, from the current 700,000, and the development plans of urban transport infrastructure are elaborated in conformity with the urbanization. The transfer of the capital from Almaty to Astana has also triggered the transfer of working points, not only for the government, but also for many citizens who relocated to the new capital. The improvement of Almaty and Saryarka districts, as well as the development of a new district, Esil, has created new job opportunities and increased migration to Astana.
In this context, the authorities are faced with challenges in delivering modern transport services and, at the same time, in launching infrastructure development projects to answer to the new mobility demand. Although, at the moment urban transport relies on road transport, to promote sustainable transport and the increasing use of public transport, the authorities have decided to develop the light rail line, one of the most ambitious local infrastructure projects. As Astana is divided in three districts, Almaty, Saryarka and Esil, the line will provide connection between Saryarka and Esil imposing the construction of 42 km.
The line will be commissioned in 2017 and works will be carried out in three phases. Phase I will include the construction of the 8km section linking the city centre to the airport, Phase II will include the construction of 10km of line providing connection between the city centre, the north and the central rail station and Phase III will include the construction of 18km of a ring line. The project will be financed by the Kazakh Government. Civil engineering works part of Phase II will have a total cost of USD 594 Thousand, the Asian Development Bank estimates. The bank will grant USD 565 Thousand and the Government will pay for the remaining USD 29,000. The whole cost of the project is estimated at USD 1.3 Billion.
The implementation of the project was initiated in 2011 and works for Phase I were carried out in 2012. By March or August 2013 at the latest (delays are caused by expropriations) the authorities plan to initiate Phase II as well. The project is considered as the central element of a railway urban transport network and is part of the capital’s plan for the development of a sustainable, integrated, comfortable and rapid system.

[ by Pamela Luică ]
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