Kazakhstan always stake mainly on railroad transport in cargo transportation. However, the growth potential of this mode of transport is limited due to the existing infrastructure which also requires drastic upgrade. Therefore, in conditions of new industrialization the volumes of the freight traffic and their diversification can be dramatically raised only by means of development of domestic motor transport sector.
It is quite obvious that the railroad is currently unable to provide needs of national economy in freight traffic in spite of introduction of new feeders and upgrade of individual railroad sections. Thus, the share of railroad traffic in total freight turnover of Kazakhstan decreased from 90 % in 1990 to 72 % in 2010. Railroad freight traffic is slowed down by the tangle of problems which include a high degree of depreciation of railroad infrastructure, wagons deficiency and a big investment requirement of the sector. The serious obstacle is also the lack of tariffs unification with Russian railways and there is still to be a big and hard work in the frames of Custom Union.
Against this background this is not surprising that the government focuses on the development of automobile roads network. A powerful impetus to this process should be done by the implementation of megaproject “Western Europe – Western China” under which approximately 2.8 thousand km of roads are to be reconstructed and converted to the first and second classes in Kazakhstan. It means that conditions for trucking activities should be significantly improved. However, the market does not keep pace with the infrastructure: there are a big number of small trucking companies who are unable to provide international level of customer service.
The fact that domestic transport sector is growing dynamically is also proved by the statistics: today it accounts for 27 % of national freight turnover (excluding pipelines). According to the forecasts of analysts of ATF Bank Research in next four years the road transport will grow by an average of 10 % per year and by 2015 its share in total freight turnover will reach 32 %.
When comparing railroad and motor transport it should be noticed that the last-mentioned grows much faster: in last three years its indicators have increased by 26 % against 3 % in the transport industry as a whole.
Motor transport exceeds in efficiency the railroad also as it delivers freights “from door to door”. The share of motor transport in traffic of so-called “cargo loadings” in 2010 exceeded 81 % which is nearly 2 billion tons. Although its freight turnover significantly lower than of railroad the growth dynamics of this indicator is impressive: from 47.1 billion tkm in 2005 to 80.2 billion tkm in 2010.
Among the major tasks that the sector faces we can note an increase of traffic distance within Kazakhstan, the consolidation of trucking companies to increase their competitiveness as well as to attract investments for upgrading of their truck fleet.
Thus, in developed countries 85 % of total cargo tonnage transported by motor traffic covers the run distance not exceeding 150 km, 11 % – from 150–500 km, 2.4% – 500–1,000 km and about 1 % – more than 1,000 km. For comparison: in Kazakhstan 99.4 % of all traffic is carried over a distance less than 150 km. And the share of freights transported over a distance of 1,000 km is negligible – 0.1 % of the total volume. It is obvious that we need to catch up developed countries by this indicator, particularly through the development of transit transport.
The next problem appears from the reform of the sector which had been carried out once and resulted in the predominance of small private trucking companies. Thus, according to the Statistics Agency as of the end of 2010 there were 397,598 registered trucks (this is somewhat less than in 2008 and 2009), whereof 220,692 are in private sector. At the beginning of 2010 there were 1,105 enterprises operating in road transport in the country, including 605 of them in cargo delivery. Most of these companies are generally small and in the early stage of growth. Due to this and limited number of supplied services the domestic trucking companies hold only a small share in international traffic which in fact is given for the complete control of foreign players. The conclusion is obvious: the state should create inventiveness for consolidation of trucking companies thereby increasing their capitalization and investment attractiveness.
Another problem that needs to be solved immediately is the depreciation of fixed assets. According to data presented in the Strategic plan of the Ministry of Transport and Communications for 2010–2014, the share of all motor vehicles having been in service over 12 years is 63 %. At the same time this value reaches 84 % for trucks. As a result, this leads to increase of costs for their repair and maintenance, reduce level of service and negative impact on the environment.
However, investments in motor transport are still at a low level and do not exceed 6.5 billion tenge per year which certainly retards the upgrading of the fleet. The strengthening of environmental requirements can contribute to increase of investment flow into the sector. Theoretically such measures should limit the import of outdated vehicles to the Republic and increase the competitiveness of Kazakhstan’s auto assembly plants. However, as the Press Service of the Ministry of Transport and Communications reported in December 2011, imposing restrictions for imported vehicles to compliance with Euro-3 standard is postponed once again – now on January 1, 2013. If follow a simple logic, then the transition to Euro-4 standard which expected to be implemented from January 1, 2014 will also be postponed. The main limiting factor here is the upgrade rates of the domestic oil refineries which are currently unable to produce fuel that meets the requirements of Euro-3 not to mention Euro-4.
However, since the commencement of Customs Union, import duties for used cars have increased to 30–35 % on average which means that transporters will still be forced to begin the process of upgrading their fleets.
By the way, there are also available prerequisites which should initiate further growth of trucking business. These include the highest density among the other means of communications. Thus, the density of roads in Kazakhstan is over 35 km per 1,000 km2 of the territory against the 5 km – for railway and 1.5 km – for inland waterways. And although this value is one of the lowest in the world, in terms of roads availability per 1,000 persons (5.9 km), we only slightly lagging behind Germany (7.9 km), and leave behind Russia (5.8 km), Turkey (4.8 km), Ukraine (3.7 km) and China (2.7 km).
Another matter is that the motor transport potential of the country, according to the Transport Strategy is used by only 12 %. It is slowed down by high depreciation of road network. Thus, according to reports from the World Economic Forum Kazakhstan ranked 108 position in 2008, 116 – in 2009, 124 – in 2010, and 125 – in 2011 in quality of roads. And this rating is quite objective, because it is confirmed by the information of the Ministry of Transport and Communications according to which as of January 1, 2010 32 % of the state highways of national importance was assessed as good, 45 % – as satisfactory and 23 % – as unsatisfactory.
In this regard, since 2010, the government proceded a number of large-scale projects in road construction. Under the state program on development of transport infrastructure over 2.8 trillion tenge will be committed for this purpose in 2010–2014. Among the largest projects we can mention the following: the reconstruction of the following roads: Beyneu – Aktau (470 km long, cost – $440 million), Astana – Karaganda (238 km, $1 billion), Almaty – Kapshagay (104 km, $429 million), construction of Big Almaty ringway (65 km, $1,643 billion), five international transport and logistics centres in Khorgos, Almaty, Aktobe, Shymkent, Taskale (Ozinki).
The reconstruction of highways of international transport corridor Western Europe – Western China with a total length of 8,445 km holds a special position in this list. It will connect the Russian port of St. Petersburg with the Chinese port of Lianyungang, passing through Russia, Kazakhstan and China and will become the shortest trucking route between Europe and Asia. Besides, it should be noted that 2,452 km out of 2,787 miles of the Kazakh part of the corridor will be reconstructed.
At the present time, according to the data of the Committee for Roads of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the works under the project are already carried out at 34 sites with the length of 1,621 km in Aktobe, Kyzylorda, Zhambyl and South Kazakhstan regions. In this regard 6 thousand units of equipment, 30 asphalt-concrete and 24 cement-concrete plants as well as 32 crushing plants were mobilized. More than 35 thousand road builders have been involved in the construction.
The new transport corridor will allow to reduce the transport time to 10 days versus 45 days – on the sea route and 14 days – on Trans-Siberian Main Railway. This calculation is made for a car that moves along the corridor with an average speed of 80 km/h. The completion of construction is scheduled for 2013. Following the completion the transcontinental corridor will provide freight traffic in three main directions: China – Kazakhstan (25 %), China – Central Asia (35 %), China – Kazakhstan – Russia – Western Europe (40 %).
In addition, Kazakhstan will implement a major program on development of transport-logistics centres in the framework of the reconstruction of this motor road corridor. In accordance with the feasibility study of the project it is planned to build four international (in the Almaty region, in Aktobe, in Taskalinskiy district of Western Kazakhstan region and Shymkent), as well as 12 regional transport-logistics centres (in Uralsk, Aktobe, Karabutak, Aralsk, Baikonur, Kyzylorda, Turkestan, Shymkent, Taraz, Shu, Almaty, Khorgos).
The implementation of all these ambitious projects is designed to create the most favourable treatment for trucking companies in the sphere of transit traffic. The Ministry of Transport and Communications also promised to introduce an automated weighing system of freight carrying vehicles on the run. This measure will let to avoid multiple inspections and re-weighing of trucks in following the transport corridors of the country. According to estimates of officials, as a result of measures taken, the speed of freight traffic on the main international transport corridors in Kazakhstan will increase by 20 %.
At the international conference "TransEurasia-2011" held at the end of last year Mr. Berik Kamaliyev (at that time a Minister of Transport and Communications) said that by 2015 the income of Kazakhstan from the transit is projected to reach $1.5 billion. The motor transport is able and should provide the part of these revenues. The only question is whether domestic truckers will be able to improve the quality of their service to the international level, to consolidate the business and create conditions for broader investment by the target date.
The main transit cargo flows through the territory of Kazakhstan are in the direction of the West-East and North-South, including six motor road corridors: (1) Tashkent – Shymkent – Taraz – Bishkek – Almaty – Khorgos (length 1,137 km); (2) Shymkent – Kyzylorda – Aktobe – Uralsk – Samara (2,048 km), and (3) Almaty – Karaganda – Astana – Petropavlovsk (1,669 km), and (4), Astrakhan – Atyrau – Aktau – border of Turkmenistan (1,420 km), (5) Omsk – Pavlodar – Semipalatinsk – Maykapshagay (1,105 km) (6) Astana – Kostanay – Russian border (879 km). The total length of these routes is 8.3 thousand km, or more than 60 % of the total length of roads of international importance. The largest volume of traffic, including transit, is carried through the corridors of 1, 3 and 6.
In Kazakhstan the total length of roads is about 148 thousand km, of which more than 93 thousand km are public motor roads, which are divided into the roads of national significance – 23,495 km (including 12,992 km of international significance) and local significance – 70,116 km. About 90 % of all roads – are hard-surface roads. Despite the fact that the roads of international and national significance are only 25 % of public roads, they accounted for over 50 % of all motor traffic.