KAZAKHSTAN: THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF ITS TRANSPORTATION CORRIDORS

Rubik YEGORIAN
Marina OGANESIAN
Anna MANVELIAN


Rubik Yegorian, President, E. Yegorian Center for Strategic Research; infrastructure expert at the TRADEMCO (Greece); assistant professor, Department of International Relations, Erevan State University (Erevan, Armenia)

Mariana Aganesian, Senior researcher, E. Yegorian Center for Strategic Research (Erevan, Armenia)

Anna Manvelian, Student, Department of International Relations, G. Acharian Erevan University (Erevan, Armenia)


In the late 20th century economic globalization forced the European, South Asian, and Mid-Eastern countries as well as Russia, China, and Japan to pay more attention to close and distant neighbors; starting with the mid-1990s they have been integrating and extending the areas of mutual trade. The United States, the EU countries, Russia, China, India, and certain other states are displaying two development trends: globalization and formation of a single Eurasian economic expanse. In this article we have undertaken to look at four global corridors of strategic importance found on the Eurasian continent: the northern, central, southern, and the one linking the North and the South. What is expected of them is not a mere growth of trade turnover but also an exchange of financial and other resources, unification of customs and taxation rules and legal systems of the countries involved together with the measures applied to goods and containers in which these goods are moved, standards and quality of roads and railroads, infrastructure, logistic and information systems.

The current discussions and the agreements already achieved suggest that three of the four corridors cross the Central Asian republics with Kazakhstan claiming the leading role. At the same time, Astana is seeking to increase its transit potential with an aim of efficiently developing its already functioning infrastructure (railroads and roads, water routes, ports, border checkpoints, etc.) so that to make the future corridors within its borders economically and otherwise attractive.

The set of measures that would include the countrys transit potential together with its export-import and transport possibilities includes certain important components. Here are some of them: the key road and railroad corridors along the East-West and North-South routes should be determined, their state and the state of its infrastructure should be analyzed and the potentially necessary improvements should be identified. In addition, the stretches that require modernization should be analyzed before investments are made, feasibility studies conducted, their technical condition should be improved to fit the international standards. It is necessary to study what is needed to start intermodal and combined transportation, improve the already existing and build new terminals as well as border checkpoints and to determine how the logistic system can be developed. The set of measures designed to boost the transportation systems competitiveness should also include amendments to the legal and normative basis, a new reliable system of monitoring and control, further development of forwarding services, updating means of communication and information transfer, etc.

From the point of view of state and global integration development of Central Asia it is signally important to identify the main corridor crossroads.

Transit Routes

For historical and geographic reasons Kazakhstan has certain advantages over its Central Asian neighbors because global Eurasian transportation corridors cross its territory. Because of their great economic and resource potential as well as its relatively capacious market these corridors attract many foreign states: at least three of such corridors may cross Kazakhstan.1

The northern route, the Trans-Asian railroad that connects China with Russia and Europe goes through Kazakhstan. The southern route will go from Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and China to the Central Asian republics and further on to Iran, across it to Turkey and Europe. It will also cross Kazakhstan. The central route will join Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and China with Central Asia across Kazakhstan and the Transcaucasus across the Caspian and then Black Sea (the TRACECA project) or across Armenia (the KHACHMERUK project2) to Turkey and further on to Europe and the Mediterranean countries. If Armenia establishes stable economic relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, then the East-West corridor of the KHACHMERUK project will offer faster and more cost-efficient transportation of goods from the East and Central Asia to Turkey, northern Iran and the Mediterranean countries than the TRACECA project or even the southern route. Turkey will find this project all the more important because it wants to reach the Central Asian countries. Today, Astana has neither intergovernmental nor interdepartmental agreements on international transport communication with Erevan, though the country signed all necessary documents with the rest 13 former Soviet republics.3

Together with the main land corridors of Eurasian importance going across Kazakhstan there are two corridors that connect the Central Asian republics with Russia: one of them leads to Russias European part; the other, to its Asian part. They were actively used in Soviet times and have not yet lost their importance in the context of active economic cooperation of the post-Soviet states with Russia. Despite the fact that recently these republics have been displaying their desire to develop contacts in the south (with the Indian Ocean coastal states across Pakistan and with the Persian Gulf countries) the corridors that connect Central Asia with Russia will retain their importance for Kazakhstan and other countries for many more years to come. The major railroads and roads of Kazakhstan also go along these routes.

The following routes can be described as main railroads. The Northern route: Druzhba-Aktogay-Sayak-Balkhash-Manty-Karaganda-Astana-Kokshetau-Petropavlovsk. The main border checkpoints are Druzhba, Petropavlovsk, Kzyltu, Presnogorkovskaia (Troitsk), Zolotaia Sopka (Komsomolets), Tobol. The Central route (sometimes called Yuzhniy): Druzhba-Aktogay-Almaty-Lugovaia (connected with Bishkek)-Shymkent-Chengeldy-Tashkent; it main checkpoints are found at Druzhba, Lugovaia, Chengeldy; the Central Asian route: Bishkek/Tashkent-Arys-Kzyl-Orda-Kandagash-Aktobe-Uralsk-Ozinki-Saratov with the main checkpoints at Lugovaia, Chengeldy, Uralsk, Ozinki. The Western route: Bekdash (Turkmenistan)-Aktau/Karakalpakia (Uzbekistan)-Beyneu-Makat-Atyrau-Kigash (Akkol)-Astrakhan (Russia) with the main checkpoints at Yeraliev, Aktau, Akzhegit and Kigash.

The main share of transit goods is carried along the Northern corridor which also serves as the main link between China and Russia.

The main roads go in five directions. Corridor No. 1 (Southern): Urumqi (China)-Khorgos (Kazakhstan)-Almaty-Korday (connected with Bishkek)-Taraz-Shymkent-Leninskoe (Kazakhstan)-Tashkent. It is the Kazakhstani part of the historical Great Silk Road (TRACECA) and it serves the transit needs of the Central Asian countries and China. The main checkpoints are at Khorgos, Korday, and Leninskoe. Corridor No. 2 (Central Asian): Tashkent-Leninskoe-Shymkent-Kzyl-Orda-Kandagash-Aktobe-Uralsk-Samara (Russia) with the main checkpoints at Leninskoe and Uralsk. This route is used to move goods from Kazakhstan to Russia and Central Asia as well as from the Central Asian republics to Russia and to Europe (and in the opposite direction). Corridor No. 3 (Northern): Tashkent/Bishkek-Almaty-Balkhash-Karaganda-Astana-Ruzaevka-Kostanay-Zolotaia Sopka-Troitsk (Russia)-Chelyabinsk with Leninskoe serving as the main border checkpoint. Corridor No. 4 (Eastern): Urumqi-Maykapchagay (Kazakhstan)-Georgievka-Semipalatinsk-Pavlodar-Priirtyshskaia Zhelezinka-Omsk (Russia); the main border checkpoints are at Maykapchagay and Priirtyshskaia Zhelezinka. Russia and China move their goods across Eastern Kazakhstan. There are potential routes. Corridor No. 5 (Western): Astrakhan-Atyrau-Makat-Beyneu (connected with Uzbekistan through Akzhegit)-Aktau-Zhanaozen-Bekdash (Turkmenistan) with the main border checkpoints at Aksarai, Aktau, Akzhegit, Bekdash. It will allow Europe and Russia to move their goods to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and further on to the Indian Ocean coastal states.

Strategic Routes

Discussions in Kazakhstan and its neighbors, multi-component summary analysis of population distribution across the republic, its transportation infrastructure, the corresponding governmental conception,4 the intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements,5 global trends in the world and on the Eurasian continent and the market development trends have demonstrated that the railroad and road corridor crossroads North-South and East-West are of strategic importance for Astana (see Figs. 1 and 2).


Figure 1: The Main Railroad Corridor Crossroad of Kazakhstan


Figure 2: The Main Road Corridor Crossroad of Kazakhstan

These corridor crossroads are important not only because they will allow Kazakhstan to move nearly all transit goods but also because they will become the main communication lines and will boost the republics social and economic development.

The republics administrative and territorial division and distribution of its population (Table 1)6 shows that the railroad and road corridor crossroads will connect all 14 regions of the republic. The South-North corridor will cross the Southern Kazakhstan, Almaty, Eastern Kazakhstan, Karaganda, Kostanay, Zhambyl, Akmolinsk, Pavlodar and Northern Kazakhstan regions with the population of 10,853,918 (the republics total population is 13,504,443).

Table 1

Regions

Administrative centers

Territory (thou, sq km)

Population

Place according to population strength

Number of districts in the region

Number of cities of regional importance

Southern Kazakhstan

Shymkent

117.3

1,978,339

1

12

4

Almaty

Almaty

224.0

1,558,534

2

16

3

Eastern Kazakhstan

Ust-Kamenogorsk

283.3

1,531,024

3

14

5

Karaganda

Karaganda

428.0

1,410,218

4

9

8

Kostanay

Kostanay

195.4

1,017,729

5

16

4

Zhambyl

Taraz

144.3

988,840

6

10

1

Akmolinsk

Kokshetau

133.0

836,271

7

17

2

Pavlodar

Pavlodar

2,124.8

806,983

8

10

3

Northern Kazakhstan

Petropavlovsk

123.2

725,980

9

13

1

Aktiubinsk

Aktobe

300.6

682,558

10

12

1

Western Kazakhstan

Uralsk

151.3

616,800

11

12

1

Kzyl-Orda

Kzyl-Orda

226.0

596,212

12

7

1

Atyrau

Atyrau

118.6

440,286

13

13

1

Mangghystau

Aktau

165.6

314,669

14

4

2

On the other hand, these corridor crossroads make it possible to ensure all transportation needs between Kazakhstan, the Central Asian and Transcaucasian countries, Russia and China, as well as transit traffic between the South Asian (Pacific basin) markets, Russia, the Transcaucasus, Europe, the Indian Ocean coastal states, the markets of the Arabian Sea area and of Northern Europe.

At the same time, these corridors comprise all main railroad and road routes of the republic that are parts of the main Europe-Asia railroads and motor roads of Asia. In addition, they are part of the TRACECA corridor and of the actively developing southern route: the Central Asian states-Serakhs (Turkmenistan)-Meshed (Iran)-Istanbul (Turkey)-the Mediterranean Sea-Europe/North America, Latin America.

Fig. 1 shows that the East-West route of the main railroad corridor crossroad joins Kazakhstan with its neighbors at the following points: Ozinki (to Russia through Saratov), Kagash (to Russia through Astrakhan), Aktau (to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan across the Caspian), Bekdash (to Turkmenistan), Akzhegit and Chengeldy (both to Uzbekistan), Lugovaia (to Kyrgyzstan), Druzhba (to China), Semipalatinsk/Belvagash (to eastern Russia). The following points join the republic with its neighbors along the North-South route: Tobol, Zolotaia Sopka/Komsomolets, Presnogorkovskaia, Petropavlovsk, Kzyltu, Aksu/Shcherbakty (all to Russia), Druzhba (to China), Lugovaia (to Kyrgyzstan), Chengeldy (to Uzbekistan).

The main railroads go along these routes: the northern, central, Central Asian, and western that meet in Manty.

The East-West routes of the main railroad and road corridor crossroad connect Kazakhstan with its neighbors at the following points (Fig. 2): Uralsk and Kagash (Russia), Aktau (Russia, the Transcaucasus, Iran, and Turkmenistan), Akzhegit (Uzbekistan), Khorgos and Zaysan (China), Semipalatinsk/Belvagash (eastern Russia through Lokot). The North-South route has the following points: Zolotaia Sopka/Komsomolets (through Troitsk) and Petropavlovsk (both to Russia), Zaysan and Khorgos (both to China), Korday (to Kyrgyzstan), Shymkent/Leninskoe (to Uzbekistan).

There are four motor routes going along these corridors: Southern (Corridor No. 1), Central Asian (Corridor No. 2), Northern (Corridor No. 3), Western (Corridor No. 5). They all meet in Almaty. In the 21st century these railroad and road corridor crossroads will play a major strategic role in developing the country since they will carry nearly all the passengers and will be responsible for the main transit cargo traffic. A comparative analysis of the main changes in indices of the transportation complex (TC) performance has demonstrated that they correspond to the changes in the production of the republics GDP.

Transportation Complex: Its State and Economic Role

Transport is of great importance for any country. Kazakhstan with its favorable geographic and geopolitical location in Eurasia and huge natural and raw material resources is no exception to this rule. From this point of view it is important to assess the present state of the republics transportation complex and the role the corridors play in it.

As the best transportation means railroads play an important role: they carry mainly the local products, that is, bulk and loose cargoes (grain, coals, ores, oil, oil products, etc.). The railroads are responsible for the main international passenger and cargo turnover.

Railroads are most developed in the countrys northern partthey belong to the former all-Union East-West system. In the rest of the republic the railroad network remains undeveloped and is represented by four routes described above: central, northern, Central Asian, and western.

The share of international railroad traffic in the total volume of cargo traffic load (t/km) is 40 to 50 percent.7 The total volume of its traffic load on the railroads is about 60m tons (of which about 49m are exported, 6m are imported, while 5m cross the country). The main transit load is created by cargo turnover between the Central Asian republics and Russia, the CIS countries and Asia (especially with China). Cargo transit turnover between Europe and Asia remains undeveloped.

The railroads of Kazakhstan are wide-gauged (1,520 mm according to the Soviet standard) while the Chinese (or European) standard is narrower (1,435 mm). Cargo has to be moved to other freight cars; truck replacement rarely practiced. On average, only 45 percent of the republics railroads have the second track; only 30 percent use electricity. Other exploitation parameters correspond to international standards of cargo traffic arteries.

The network of motor roads is less developed, yet it is an important and highly promising part of the republics transportation system. They are used to move general cargoes including expensive consumer goods. In the total volume of international freight traffic the motor transport is responsible for not more than 5 percent, 94 percent of which belong to the CIS countries. The bulk of transit cargo exchange goes to the Central Asian CIS countries and Europe. The total length of motor roads of state importance between cities is about 19,000 km, of which 12,500 km are of international importance. Less than one-third of the motor roads have asphalt or concrete pavement; the majority of them are two-lane, 6 to 7 m wide. Not more than 1 percent (at large cities) of motor roads have four lanes. The state of the roads leaves much to be desired: the pavement of about 75 percent of them is not strong enough; the pavement of 20 percent of them is totally destroyed while 35 percent are in a critical state. Twenty percent of the bridges do not meet the axial load standards while 5 percent are in a critical state. Road service and telecommunication service are practically non-existent.

Starting with 2001 the state has been paying much attention to infrastructure and reconstruction of motor roads with the help of foreign investments. The priorities have been identified: the Almaty-Astana road (1,226 km long) with the participation of the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Saudi Development Fund (SDF) and the government of Kazakhstan; the Almaty-Bishkek road (204 km) with the participation of ADB, the European bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the government; the motor road network in Western Kazakhstan (about 775 km) partially funded by the Japanese Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) and the government of Kazakhstan.

Lets have a look at the marine transport infrastructure. Aktau on the Caspian eastern coast is the main export port. In future it will receive more transit cargoes. To make this possible the port is reconstructed on a rather great scale (grain, ferry, and crude oil terminals will be added) with the help of the money from EBRD and other sources.

All current railroad-, motor road-, and port-related projects are aimed at improving the quality of the existing transport network and at developing the transit and export-import infrastructure that are stretches and junctions of the corridor crossroads described above that have not yet been officially recognized as strategically important. Certain steps in this direction are being made: the Ministry of Transport and the relevant research and design institutes are working on a list of projects and priorities in the transit and export-import infrastructure. The government has a lot to do to commission the strategically important North-South and East-West corridors. More investors should be invited to modernize the existing stretches and junctions of corridor crossroads.

Conclusion

Kazakhstan as the main link of the regions transportation routes is more affected by worldwide globalization than its Central Asian neighbors. This is explained by its geographic location between Russia and China as well as its economic, raw-material, human, and intellectual potential. This is confirmed by the dynamics of direct foreign investments in the countrys economy: between 1993 and 1999 they amounted to $10 billion (54.4 percent of them went to the oil and gas sphere; 20.1 percent, to non-ferrous metallurgy). According to the U.N., Kazakhstan came second after Russia among the CIS countries and fifth among the Central and East European, and Baltic countries where direct foreign investments were concerned.

It should be added that Kazakhstan responds to the interest of the world around it with active foreign and foreign economic policies. It does its best to adequately react to globalization challenges and to become a harmoniously integrated state and part of the global world of the 21st century.

To realize the conception of the countrys integrated economic development as a whole (as a model of an adequate response to the worldwide globalization processes) the republic has to determine the most strategically important corridors between the south and the north and the west and the east and bring them up to the world level.


1 See: Eurasian Global Rail Freight Corridors, UIC, TRADEMCO, June 2000.
2 See: R. Yegorian, Program KHACHMERUK (Crossroads of Armenia), Ministry of Construction of Armenia, Erevan, 1994.
3 See: Sbornik mezhpravitelstvennykh i mezhvedomstvennykh soglasheniy o mezhdunarodnom avtomobilnom soobshchenii, NIIT, Almaty, 2001.
4 See: Postanovlenie Pravitelstva Respubliki Kazakhstan ot 11 iiunia, 2001 goda No. 801 Ob odobrenii kontseptsii gosudarstvennoi transportnoi politiki Respubliki Kazakhstan.
5 See: Sbornik mezhpravitelstvennykh i mezhvedomstvennykh soglasheniy o mezhdunarodnom avtomobilnom soobshchenii.
6 See: Industrialno-kommercheskiy reklamno-informatsionny spravochnik, Kazakhstan, 2002.
7 Statisticheskiy ezhegodnik Kazakhstana, Statistical Agency of the RK, 2002.

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