New Motorways, High-Speed Rail Links, Train Station Planned for EXPO 2017

ASTANA – It’s about to get a lot easier to drive between Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan’s two main business and government hubs. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Transport and Communications plans to build a new road cutting the travelling distance between Almaty and Astana by 200 kilometres (120 miles) and reducing the travel time between the two cities to seven to eight hours.

Currently, a driver needs 10-12 hours to drive from Almaty to Astana.

The government is also building a new high-speed rail system to link Almaty and Astana, reducing the travel time for passengers by eight hours from 13 hours to five hours.

“This route will be 1,100 kilometers (683 miles) long. The new rail line will be shorter at 400-500 kilometres (240 miles-375 miles). The average speed of the Tulpar-Talgo trains on the service will double to 250 kilometres per hour (150 miles per hour),” said Murat Buldekbayev, public relations director of Kazakhstan State Railways, or Kazakhstan Temir Zholy.

As part of the new Kazakhstan 2050 National Strategy, President Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered three major projects to be commenced this year to develop the country’s transport infrastructure and increase its transit capacity at the expanded Cabinet meeting held on January 23 in Astana.

The president gave priority to constructing the new high-speed railway between Astana and Almaty through Lake Balkhash. It will be most ambitious rail project in the modern history of the country.

“We will start constructing the new railway line with the capacity to run Talgo cars on it. If the journey time between the two cities can be reduced to four to five hours, that will be enough for us,” the president said.

“I instruct the government to develop this plan,” the president said. “We will fund the construction of the high-speed railway that will not go around Lake Balkhash, but across a bridge over it. The overall distance of the rail line will be reduced by 300-400 kilometres (180 miles to 240 miles),” he said. “This is a great project and it will take five or six years to complete it.”

The motorway will conform to the highest international standards with four lanes, a concrete surface and a dividing line. The project’s feasibility study will be completed in May 2013 and construction is scheduled to start this summer. The motorway is expected to be completed in 2017.

“The full Astana-Almaty-Balkhash motorway will be 1057 kilometres (630 miles) long. The existing road from Almaty to Yekaterinburg will connect Astana with Balkhash,” President Nazarbayev said. “In order to reduce the length of the motorway, we have taken the decision to build a big bridge in Balkhash with a total length of six to seven kilometres to reach Kapshagai and then drive further to Almaty.”

The government has also approved the construction of two more new motorways: the first will connect Astana with Aktau; the second will link Astana with Ust-Kamenogorsk. The projects are scheduled to be completed in 2019.

“The cost of all three projects with a total length of 3,500 kilometres (2,100 miles) is 1.5 trillion tenge. In 2013, construction crews will also repair 9,000 kilometres (5,400 miles) of public roads. Some 300 billion tenge has been allocated this year to complete the ongoing projects,” Satzhan Ablaliyev, deputy chairman of the Ministry of Transport and Communications Roads Committee, said.

“These funds will be primarily used to continue previously initiated projects, including the Western Europe to Western China international transport corridor,” Ablaliyev said. “This is going to be the final year of implementing the project in the Aktobe and Kyzylorda regions. We will also continue working on the project in the South Kazakhstan region.”

Ablaliyev said work would begin on the final stage of road construction work in the Zhambyl region. “We will start working on the Almaty-Khorgos motorway in the Almaty region this year and will finish it at the end of 2015,” he said.

Following a directive from President Nazarbayev, the Ministry of Transport and Communications is drafting the 2020 Infrastructure Development Programme to boost transit capacity and create new jobs. The ministry is continuing work on building the new Zhezkazgan-Beineu and Arkalyk-Shubarkol railway lines to connect the central and western regions of the country.

A major new railway station is also being built in Astana to serve the anticipated hundreds of thousands, or millions of visitors for EXPO 2017. Kazakhstan State Railways said work on the new complex would start in 2014. The new railway station will be located so that passengers riding into the capital can see the panoramic views of the Left Bank’s sights through the windows of their trains.

The new station will serve the new high speed Astana-Almaty railway line. It will be located in southeast Astana along the axis of the Millennium Alley. The futuristic terminal will be shaped like a sports stadium. Its glass and steel construction will generate multiple reflections. It will gather natural light and generate only low carbon emissions in keeping with the sustainable energy theme of the Expo.

The most spectacular part of the new station will be an arch – a transparent structure in the form of a hyperbolic paraboloid, which reproduces the lattice, or kerege, woven structure of the traditional nomadic Kazakh yurt on a gigantic scale. The arch will rise over the railway station and the roads leading to it like a rainbow over the steppe, emphasizing the immense scale of Astana and the vast expanses surrounding it. A common space created by a multilevel central arrival hall will be under the transparent arch, whose giant windows will reveal spectacular views of the capital.

The new railway station will create a pedestrian bridge between the two parts of the city.

The station is designed to handle a planned, passenger traffic of 35,000 people a day. All its buildings will be contained in a central area of 18 hectares, covering a total area of 38,400 square metres (413,334 square feet). Kazakhstan State Railways said the new terminal was needed to handle the growing volume of passengers.

Kazakhstan State Railways said 86 passenger trains including 28 transit trains run through the current Astana railway station every day. This is expected to increase to 120 trains, including 40 transit trains, per day at the new station by 2025.

The State Architecture and Urban Planning Department Board said Astana may become a major transportation and logistics centre of continental importance and a key focal point in the new international transport corridor connecting Western Europe and East Asia.

Astana’s new railway station will also enable Kazakhstan State Railways to meet the challenge of coping with greatly increased volumes of passengers and cargo on the international transport corridors.

Get The Astana Times stories sent directly to you! Sign up via the website or subscribe to our Twitter and Telegram!