Nowadays, we are witnessing the beginning of entirely new phase of infrastructural modernization in the Eurasian states. The countries of the region realized that there is a strong necessity to work actively in order to create a unified platform for improvement of transport infrastructure and logistics, as well as development of multilateral trade and economic cooperation. Since the beginning of the 21st century, one of the main topics of the international agenda is dedicated to the issues of the revival of the Great Silk Road. Within the framework of the aforementioned initiative, regional states intend to boost their economic and social development stimulating the cross-border cooperation. Actually, the revival of the Great Silk Road could become one of the biggest infrastructural projects of the modern era.
Located in the very heart of Eurasia Kazakhstan claims to become transcontinental bridge, which could connect the markets of China, Europe, the CIS and the Persian Gulf states. Nowadays, as it shown in Figure 1, 5 out of the 13 railway corridors of the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD) passes through the territory of Kazakhstan. Therefore, it is not surprising that Kazakhstan developed its own transportation and logistics strategy - the New Silk Road (NSR).
The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, presented the New Silk Road project at the 25th plenary session of the Foreign Investors Council (FIC) held in Astana on May 22, 2012. At the FIC meeting, the Leader of the country stated that forthcoming creation of the Single Economic Space (2012) and the Eurasian Economic Union (2015) could give further impetus for Kazakhstan to establish the biggest transit hub of the Central Asian region benefiting from non-tariff trade opportunities and enjoying simplification of trans-border transportation and customs services. Identifying necessity to create integrated international hubs (trade, logistics, financial, business and tourism) at the key transport corridors of Kazakhstan, it was also announced that the project would implement the so-called Four “S” Principles – Speed, Service, Safety, and Stability.
The New Silk Road project aims to increase transit traffic through the territory of the country twofold by 2020 and tenfold by 2050. Therefore, the project envisages creation of the modern transport and logistics system, which will be operated by a national multi-modal transportation and logistics company created on the basis of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy offering multiple effective options of ground-transportation based cargo delivery within Kazakhstan as shown in Figure 2.
According to the Draft Comprehensive Plan of Action on the New Silk Road project for the period until 2016, the core element of the NSR will be based on the following projects and directions:
The Transcontinental Corridor Western Europe - Western China. The creation of aforementioned corridor will help to reduce the time of delivery of cargo from China to Europe by land transport by almost 3.5 times, compared to the routes by sea. The total length of the corridor along the route St. Petersburg - Moscow - Nizhny Novgorod - Kazan - Orenburg - Aktobe - Kyzylorda - Shymkent - Taraz - Korday - Almaty - Khorgos - Urumqi - Lanzhou - Zhengzhou - Lianyungang is 8445 km. The lengths of the Russian, Kazakh and Chinese parts of the road are 2233 km, 2787 km 3425 km respectively. It should be noted that 2452 km of road in Kazakhstan has to be reconstructed. The cost of the project in Kazakhstan is 825.1 billion tenge. It is planned that 1390 km of the road would be transferred to I technical category with 4 traffic lanes (Kyzylorda - Turkestan - Shymkent - Taraz - Almaty - Khorgos) and the remaining part will be transferred to II technical category (Russian border - Martuk - Aktobe - Karabutak - Kyzylorda).
Recently, it was announced that the construction of the biggest section of Kazakhstan’s part of the Transcontinental Corridor Western Europe - Western China, which is passing through the territory of Kyzylorda region with the length of 811 km, was already completed. Initially it was scheduled to finish construction works in 2015. However, in the middle of 2015 it was officially declared that the completion of the Kazakhstan's section of the Western Europe - Western China road was postponed to 2016.
The Kazakh-Iranian corridor. Aiming to create a multimodal transport system to provide connection with the Persian Gulf the Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran railway link, also known as North–South Transnational Corridor, was put into operation in December 2014. The railroad links Uzen in Kazakhstan with Bereket - Etrek in Turkmenistan and ends at Gorgan in Iran's Golestan province. Nowadays, the sides reached an agreement on the establishment of uniform rates across Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran for container trains from China to Iran, and the transit through its territory starting from October 15, 2015. They also agreed to use preferential tariffs for the transport of grain, ferrous metals, aluminum and ferroalloys from Kazakhstan to Iran in transit via Iran to the port of Bandar Abbas.
Air transit route through Kazakhstan. According to the Boeing Corporation, in the next 20 years the air cargo between Europe and Asia will grow at a CAGR of 6.6% and by 2029 will amount to 11-12 million tons per year. Therefore, Kazakhstan claims to increase the trans-Eurasian flights through its territory to 180,000 or 30% of total amount of flights and raise the number of cargo flights to 27,000 or 15% of total amount of cargo flights by 2020.
Expansion of Aktau seaport to the north. To improve existing capacity of Aktau seaport it was expanded to the north involving the construction of three dry cargo berths, a grain handling complex and related infrastructure. The cost of the project amounted to $122 million. All construction works were finished according to schedule and the north Aktau seaport terminals started operation in December 2015. As a result of the northward expansion of the Aktau international port, its capacity for transshipment of grain has increased fourfold, and the total annual capacity is expected to increase by 3 million tons reaching 19.5 million tons.
The Silk Wind project. Aiming to construct a multimodal container transportation system for freight shipments between the countries of Europe, the Caucasus and Asia Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey make considerable progress in launching the high-speed container block train Silk Wind, which will allow cargo transportation from China to Southern Europe via the shortest possible route. Nowadays, the parties agreed to enlarge the initial project by establishing the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route. The third container train, which departured from the Chinese province of Lianyungang and driving on the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route reached Georgia in December 2015.
SEZ Khorgos - East Gate. Despite the creation of the Khorgos International Centre of Boundary Cooperation in 2005, Kazakhstan and China decided to improve the cross-boundary trade by establishing a Khorgos Special Economic Zone, which will include a dry port facilities, logistics and industrial zones. Recently, Kazakhstan managed to complete the First Phase of the Khorgos SEZ by putting into operation the dry port on June 15, 2015.
It should be noted that majority of the aforementioned projects lately were included into the Nurly Zhol State Program of infrastructural development of Kazakhstan for 2015-2019, which were presented by the President of Kazakhstan on November 11, 2014. Therefore, the New Silk Road project could be considered as first attempt of the Kazakh government to systematize and streamline the infrastructural projects in the country. However, after China’s announcement of the launching the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative in 2013 it became clear that there is a strong necessity to improve the NSR’s projects management.
*To be publish in the February 2016 No. 2 issue of the "Asya Avrupa: Haber-Yorum" journal.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute's editorial policy.
Lydiya Parkhomchik (nee Timofeyenko) was born on February 9, 1984 in Zelenodolsk city, located at the territory of the Republic of Tatarstan (Russia). Since 1986 she became resident of the Republic of Kazakhstan.