Kazakhstan starts building third railway to China

Тhe Bakhty–Ayagoz railway line will increase freight capacity by 20 million tonnes. (Prime Minister’s Press Service)
Kazakhstan has broken ground on its third rail link with China. The 272km line will connect the eastern city of Ayagoz to the town of Bakhty on the border with northeast China.

When finished in 2027, the double-track railway is expected to boost freight capacity between the two countries from 28 to about 48 million tonnes a year.

It is part of a programme of work being undertaken by Astana, which envisages the laying of 1,300km of new lines.

The project will also include the building of 11 stations, 47 bridges, eight road overpasses and five pedestrian bridges.

Some 500,000 sleepers and 36 tonnes of rails will be procured domestically to achieve at least 85% local content.

The start of the project was announced by Alikhan Smailov, the prime minister of Kazakkstan. He said the line would “involve a private investor under public–private partnership principles”.

He added that the country’s investment in rail had already shown results, with rail-borne container traffic increasing 3.2 times over the past five years.

He said: “Existing transit corridors are expanding, and new transit corridors are being opened. The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, the North-South and the Southern Corridors have become particularly relevant.”

Kazakhstan’s transport infrastructure has benefited from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). At present, three BRI routes pass through the country, two terminating in Europe and a third transiting through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to connect to Iran, West Asia and India.

A 2020 World Bank report comments: “The regular train services on BRI corridor routes to Europe are potentially game changers; they are frequent and reliable, with international and local logistics companies offering a growing range of more competitively priced services.”

It adds that the impact of improved infrastructure on Kazakh GDP is estimated at around 6.5%, and improvements to trade facilitation and reducing tariffs along the corridors will add around 15%.

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