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Kazakhstan Launches Construction of New Rail Link to China

By Vusala Abbasova December 22, 2023

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The Bakhty-Ayagoz railway line is poised to offload the southern checkpoints, draw more transit, and boost the throughput capacity between Kazakhstan and China from 28 to an estimated 48 million tonnes.

Kazakhstan launched the construction of a new railway line to China, which will lead to an increase in trade turnover between the two nations by an estimated 20 million tonnes.

The opening ceremony took place on Thursday when Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov officially launched the construction project through a teleconference.

“The construction of a new railway line Bakhty-Ayagoz with a length of 272 km started in Abay region,” the Prime Minister’s press service reported, emphasizing the strategic importance of the project.

The initiative began under President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's directive to boost Kazakhstan's capability for transit and transportation. One key feature of the project is the opening of the third border crossing with China at Bakhty-Chuguchak.

The Bakhty-Ayagoz railway line is poised to offload the southern checkpoints, draw more transit, and boost the throughput capacity between Kazakhstan and China from 28 to an estimated 48 million tonnes. The double-track railroad is anticipated to become operational by 2027.

A private investor will participate in the large-scale project, in accordance with PPP (Public-Private Partnership) principles.

The extensive construction plan includes the creation of 11 stations, 47 bridges, 23 railroad overpasses, eight highway overpasses, five pedestrian bridges, and 16 observation structures. Over 500,000 units of sleepers and 36 tonnes of rails will be sourced from domestic manufacturers, ensuring a local content of at least 85 percent.

Prime Minister Smailov highlighted the remarkable growth in Kazakhstan's rail transport sector, revealing that in the previous year, the country's railroads carried a record 245 billion tonnes/kilometer, marking the highest amount of goods transported in 30 years of independence.

"High rates are maintained in the current year, despite the geopolitical situation and infrastructure constraints," Smailov said.

The Prime Minister also touched upon other ongoing infrastructure projects aimed at expanding the railway network. In his words, the construction of second tracks on the Dostyk-Moyinty section and a new railroad bypassing Almaty has already commenced, with plans to build over 1,300 kilometers of railroads within the country in the next three years.

Smailov stressed that the Bakhty-Ayagoz project will not only provide 1,700 jobs but also positively impact the economy of the entire Abay region and the country as a whole. Moreover, he emphasized that the project will accelerate the integration of Kazakhstan's railway network into the global transport system.

Meanwhile, Kanat Almagambetov, Deputy Chairman of Temir Zholy (KTZ), Kazakhstan’s national railway company, expressed optimism about the new railway line, foreseeing increased volumes of Kazakhstan's exports and transit of goods between Russia and China.

“Goods coming from the Abay region, Pavlodar, East Kazakhstan regions and others will pass through this branch line,” he said. “The construction of a double-track line is a guarantee that it will be at once with sufficient capacity. In general, it will be an additional inflow of transit cargo and an impetus to the development of our neighboring territories.”

Kazakhstan, strategically located between China and Europe, has emerged as a pivotal player in the Belt and Road Initiative. China has become Kazakhstan's second-largest trading partner and its primary export destination. The bilateral trade volume between the two nations reached an impressive $24.1 billion in 2022, reflecting a significant 34.1 percent increase compared to the previous year. Over the period from 2020 to 2022, China invested a substantial amount of $8.8 billion in Kazakhstan.