Kazakhstan expanding southern line to boost Europe-China railway transit

By bne IntelliNews June 29, 2016

Kazakhstan state-owned railway operator Temir Zholy has launched the construction of a second railway track on a 110km section of the Almaty 1-Shu line, the company said in a press release on June 28. The construction of the second track will increase the capacity of the line with more trains travelling between China and the Persian Gulf, Europe and Turkey.

In a bid to diversify its oil-based economy, landlocked Kazakhstan has been expanding its railway and road networks in order to tap into transit potential between China and Iran and Europe. In December 2014, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran commissioned a 1,036km railway line to link Kazakhstan and Iran via Turkmenistan. Together with the new east-west railway line from Beyneu to Zhezkazgan opened in August 2014, the new railway lines drastically cut the transit time for Chinese goods to the Middle East and to Europe via Russia.

The Kazakh government claims the country’s railway networks will cut travelling time between Chinese eastern seaboard and the EU’s eastern borders to just 10-11 days, versus up to 44 days by sea and 14 days along Russia’s Trans-Siberian railway. In order to boost the transit of Chinese cargo by rail, Kazakhstan intends to increase the capacity of the existing Dostyk-Alashankou railway corridor from the current 23mn tonnes a year to 50mn tonnes. In 2012, Kazakhstan commissioned the second Zhetygen-Korgas railway link to China with a capacity of 12mn tonnes per year, with a prospect of increasing that to 33mn tonnes per year.

The construction of the second track of Almaty 1-Shu railway line will enable Kazakhstan Temir Zholy to run up to seven additional container trains a day, as well as increase the number of passenger trains. The project envisages the construction of 10 new bridges and the extension of 12 existing bridges. The first stage of the project on a 58.2km-long section will be commissioned in November 2016.

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