23.05.2024 Author: Bair Danzanov

The Dostyk-Moyinty railroad: a second line, and two routes

The Dostyk-Moyinty railroad

According to data for 2023, up to 50% of rail freight on the China-Russia-Europe route was carried along the railroad leading from PRC to Russia via Kazakhstan. This proportion is equal to the total volume of freight carried along the routes across the Russian-Chinese border and Mongolia. Moreover, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev estimates that the total volume of freight carried through Kazakhstan in 2023 was 29 million tons.

Based on this data, it is safe to say that Kazakhstan and its railroad network currently play a key role in the development of Eurasian railroad corridors from China to Europe via the Russian Federation.

Nevertheless, this is not an easy role for Kazakhstan to fulfil: the country’s border crossings with the PRC (Altynkol-Khorgos and Dostyk-Alashankou) are operating at close to full capacity, as are its railroad hubs located on the routes used by transit freight trains.

Under such conditions, there is a clear need for the optimization of Kazakhstan’s section of the China-Kazakhstan-Russia-Europe corridor. In order to meet this need, Kazakhstan is currently implementing a number of significant transportation projects. These include the construction of the Bakhty-Ayagoz highway along with the new Bakhty-Chuguchak border railway crossing between China and Kazakhstan. There are also a number of promising projects scheduled to begin in 2024-2026, including the reconstruction and modernization of all existing railway crossings on Kazakhstan’s border with the Russian Federation as part of the latter’s Nurly Zhol 2020-2025 national program, and the proposed creation of a multimodal corridor along the Irtysh River with the construction of a gateway in Semey.

Other important projects in this sector for Kazakhstan include the commissioning in February 2024 of a Kazakh logistics terminal in China’s Xi’an Dry Port. This terminal is used to sort cargo and load railroad trains travelling to Kazakhstan from key industrial zones in China, including those on the China-Europe route. On February 1, 2024, the head of Kazakhstan’s railroad network informed the president that work on this project had been completed.

However, the most significant and ambitious of the Kazakhstan’s current projects is probably the 836-kilometer Dostyk-Moyinty railway line, the country’s largest rail transportation construction project.

Work on the construction of the new railroad began in November 2022. The project involves the laying of almost a thousand kilometers of rail track (both additional tracks and the modernization of old tracks), as well as the construction of new bridges, laying of communications lines and the development of station infrastructure, and the comprehensivemodernization of Dostyk station, which is on the border with China and thus is located close to its rail network. The railroad is being constructed by Integra Construction KZ LLP, Kazakhstan’s largest and most experienced national contractor, with assistance from KTZ, the Kazakh National Railway company.  The work is scheduled to be completed in 2025.

 The main purpose of the new railroad is to increase the capacity of the currently existing single-track section fivefold – up to 60 pairs of freight trains per day, and thus to increase the speed of freight traffic along the Kazakh section of the Eurasian corridor from 1100 to 1500 kilometers per day. That last target seems particularly important, as it will help Kazakhstan to ensure that the sections of Eurasian corridors passing through its territory are competitive at the international level. In order to achieve this goal the Nurly Zhol program will need to allow speeds of 1,250 kilometers per day.

The importance of the Dostyk-Moyinty section lies in the fact that it could become the main link between the Kazakhstan-China border and two key Eurasian transit routes – the railroads running northwards to the Kazakhstan-Russia border and those running westwards across the country to Aktau and Kuryk, its largest ports on the Caspian Sea. The modernized Dostyk-Moyinty railroad will significantly shorten the China-Kazakhstan-Russia-Europe routes and, by providing the most efficient connection between China’s railroad system and the Caspian Sea ports, strengthen Kazakhstan’s position as a key partner of its eastern neighbor in the promising China-Caspian Sea-Europe routes. More importantly, Kazakhstan’s government needs to find investors from the Middle East to modernize its Caspian Sea ports, to develop its shipping fleet, Kazmortransflot, and to promote the China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran corridor project at the international level. The railroad project will also help support Kazakhstan’s exports to China, especially its supply of increasingly large volumes of ferrous metallurgy products. The railroad’s importance for exports from Kazakhstan to China has increased following the change of ownership in late 2023 of the metallurgical plant in Temirtau, which lies on the line running north from Moyinty station and thus is directly connected to the line under construction. Under the plant’s previous owner, China had since the 1990s been considered its most important customer.

The largest of Kazakhstan’s current railroad transportation projects is thus likely to serve a number of purposes: it will form part of the China-Kazakhstan-Russia-Europe route, help to further its vision of establishing promising trans-Caspian routes, and promote development within the country while boosting its export potential.


Bair Danzanov, independent expert on Central Asia and Mongolia, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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