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Library of Congress – Federal Research Division

Country Profile: Kazakhstan, December 2006

being completed along the Caspian coast between Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan and Astrakhan in Russia, serving Kazakhstan’s western oil outposts. There are 46 road crossings on the border with Russia, seven each on the borders with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and six on the border with China. Spurred by income from oil, ownership of private vehicles increased sharply in the early 2000s, albeit from a very low starting point.

Railroads: In 2005 Kazakhstan had an estimated 14,200 kilometers of rail line, of which about 4,000 kilometers were electrified. The infrastructure of the railroad system is in poor condition, although Kazakhstan still moves nearly 75 percent of its freight and 50 percent of its passengers by rail. Using foreign funds, state-owned Kazakhstan Railways has undertaken a three-year infrastructure improvement program, and its passenger service was being reorganized in 2006. Rolling stock and spare parts have been in short supply. The system is concentrated in the northern part of the country, where it connects with lines in southern Russia. Lines also run northeast from Almaty to join the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Russia and westward from Almaty to Shymkent and then into European Russia. The main connector with Uzbekistan runs into Shymkent. Needed reform of the administrative structure and route improvements have gone slowly. A high priority is construction of a shorter rail route across Kazakhstan to link western China with Russia. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan plan a 100-kilometer connector line from Almaty to Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan, to be completed in 2008. A rail line connects Druzhba, on Kazakhstan’s eastern border, with China via the Alataw Shankou Pass. Almaty also plans to build a 35-kilometer subway line.

Ports: Kazakhstan’s major ports are the cities of Aqtau and Atyrau on the Caspian Sea and the Irtysh River ports of Öskemen, Pavlodar, and Semey, which serve the northeastern industrial sector. Beginning in 1999, Aqtau was upgraded, with the goal of handling 7.5 million tons of oil and 1 million tons of freight per year. A new ferry port opened in Aqtau in 2001 added substantially to its capacity and established ferry connections with Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia.

Inland Waterways: Although Kazakhstan has about 4,000 kilometers of inland waterways, 80 percent of river traffic uses the Irtysh River. Eleven companies carry traffic through the system.

Civil Aviation and Airports: In 2006 some 16 major airports and 51 smaller paved-runway airports served Kazakhstan. Nine had runways longer than 3,000 meters. Three, at Almaty, Aqtau, and Atyrau, offered international flights. In 2006 a fourth international airport was planned to serve western Kazakhstan. Flights from Almaty connect with Russia, other former Soviet republics, and some destinations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Development of Kazakhstan’s airline service has suffered from political struggles over control of the industry. The government has contracted management of some airports to foreign companies, and in the early 2000s foreign companies began competing with domestic airlines. In 2002 one-third of Kazakhstan’s air companies lost their licenses because of lax safety practices, and many companies merged thereafter. Air Kazakhstan, the state airline, declared bankruptcy in 2004, making its competitor Air Astana the main domestic airline. The Atyrau airport is scheduled for upgrading with funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Pipelines: Because Kazakhstan is a vast country producing large amounts of oil and natural gas, pipelines receive high priority in transportation planning, and their location and funding have


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