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Kazakhstan Modernizes Its Railway Fleet Thanks To French Locomotives

By Nazrin Gadimova May 30, 2019

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According to the deal, Alstom will design and manufacture 119 units of Prima M4 KZ4AT passenger locomotives, as well as construct and provide maintenance for 302 units of Prima T8 KZ8A freight locomotives.

The top-notch, modern transportation infrastructure continues to be realized in Kazakhstan as the national railway is poised to get an upgrade. France’s leading transportation engineering company Alstom is contracted to build 199 premium electric passenger locomotives for Kazakhstan’s national railway company, Temir Zholy.

According to the deal, Alstom will design and manufacture 119 units of Prima M4 KZ4AT passenger locomotives, as well as construct and provide maintenance for 302 units of Prima T8 KZ8A freight locomotives. The company has already started the production of the first passenger locomotive at a manufacturing hub in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Nur-Sultan (formerly known as Astana). The first Prima M4 for Temir Zholy is expected to come on track by late 2019 under the “Made in Kazakhstan” brand.

“We are proud to widen our activities by launching the new production line for passenger locomotives in Kazakhstan, which diversifies country’s industrialization program,” Guillaume Tritter, Alstom’s managing director for Kazakhstan, said in a press release sent out on Wednesday, adding that the company is eager to gain a foothold in Central Asia.

The Prima KZ4AT model is based on the Alstom Prima modular platform that is ranked as one of the most versatile locomotives. It can run at 200 kilometers (124 miles) per hour and has been designed to operate in extreme weather conditions. The car has an automatic train operations system that uses global positioning systems, or GPS, to help control operations, run diagnostics and assist with traffic safety.

Some 20 Prima M4 passenger locomotives manufactured in France are already in commercial operation on Kazakhstani tracks and have run more than 15 million kilometers (9.32 million miles).

Alstom, which is ranked amongst the world’s leading brands in integrated transportation systems, recorded sales of €8.1 billion ($9.02 billion) and booked €12.1 billion ($13.37 billion) worth of orders in the 2018-19 fiscal year. Headquartered in France, Alstom has a presence in more than 60 countries and employs 36,300 people.

The company’s current work with Kazakhstan is not exactly new, and the government has been striving to upgrade and modernize the rail networks. In 2010, the French company and Russia’s Transmashholding launched a joint venture to build locomotives for Kazakhstan’s railways.

With a territory measuring more than 2.7 million square kilometers (1.68 square miles), Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest country and stretches between western China and the Caspian Sea. The country’s railway system includes over 15,000 km (9,321 mi.) of tracks. As of 2017, Kazakhstan's railway fleet included 1,700 electric and diesel locomotives, 2,700 passenger and 28 luggage cars, as well as nearly 60,000 freight cars and 80,000 cars owned by private companies.

The government has launched a $9 billion state-wide plan known as Nurly Zhol, or “bright path” in Kazakh. The initiative prioritizes the development of the country’s railways and roads with an eye towards its eastern neighbor and economic giant China. In 2013, the two countries laid down nearly 1,500 km (932 mi.) of railway lines that connect western China with the Caspian Sea and Europe, as well 3,000 km (1,864 mi.) of highways.