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Kazakhstan: Transportation
Country Study > Chapter 10 > Transportation and Communications > Transportation


Overall transportation volume probably peaked in the late Soviet period, when enormous inefficiencies added time and distance to all types of movement. The postindependence correlation of prices to cost has meant abandonment of uneconomical transportation practices. The pipeline system, although crucial to the economic welfare of oil-rich Kazakhstan, remains without direct connection to potential customers in the West and elsewhere. The national telephone system serves only a small percentage of the population; domestic radio and television remain limited and state owned.


In 1994 and 1995, annual freight movement by road, which already accounted for less than 10 percent of Kazakhstan's freight haulage, declined more than 50 percent per year because of the shift to more efficient means of transport and the country's overall economic decline. In 1993 Kazakhstan counted about 400,000 road vehicles for freight transport, many of which were pieces of farm equipment. Available tractors and trailers are mostly small and in poor condition; the shortage of spare parts and the lack of a domestic truck-manufacturing industry hinder long-distance haulage.

The passenger bus fleet, which numbered 25,500 vehicles in 1991, has declined in numbers and quality since the last new buses were added in 1988. Spare parts are also a problem in bus maintenance, and local bus service is impeded by government caps on fares.

The basic road infrastructure (about 88,000 kilometers, of which about 83,000 kilometers are paved or gravel) serves the widely dispersed population and economic centers adequately. However, there is a shortage of road maintenance equipment, and construction and repair contracts are allocated to as many as seventy different companies and plants owned by the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Ministry of Transport and Communications. As a result, construction and repair operations are disorganized and uneconomical.


Kazakhstan Railways is the third largest rail system in the former Soviet Union, smaller only than the systems of Russia and Ukraine. In 1991 railroads carried 90 percent of Kazakhstan's freight and 30 percent of its passenger traffic. In 1993 the rail system included 14,148 kilometers of track, of which 3,050 kilometers were electrified. All track was 1,520-millimeter gauge. In 1993 the system carried about 39.7 million passengers and hauled about 517 million tons of freight, but haulage declined 42 percent in 1994, most notably in chemicals, cement, iron ore, and ferrous metals. Like the road system, Kazakhstan Railways suffers from a shortage of spare parts; as much as 95 percent of spare parts, equipment, and rolling stock must be purchased from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries. Repair plants for rolling stock are in poor condition and use outmoded equipment.


In 1992 Kazakhstan had 2,850 kilometers of pipeline for crude oil, 3,480 kilometers for natural gas, and 1,500 kilometers for refined products. The oil pipeline system was designed to ship domestic oil, most of which is in the western part of the republic, and to bring Russia's Siberian oil to Kazak refineries. Construction of a pipeline that would bring Kazakhstan's oil to world markets has proven a major obstacle in the development of the Tengiz field because of disagreements over routing, financing, and ownership. Russian control of Kazakhstan's only pipelines to the outside world has restricted oil exports to the West and discouraged foreign investment in the oil and gas industries. In 1995 Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, all of which have suffered export shutdowns in their cross-Russia pipelines, began discussing a massive pipeline project that would bring their products across China to the Pacific Ocean and into Japan.

Air Transport

Kazakhstan Airlines was founded in 1993 as a joint-stock company initially based on 100 aircraft that the republic received as its share when the Soviet Aeroflot fleet was divided among the former republics. Six private airline companies also operate within the republic. The republic airlines of Ukraine and Uzbekistan began service to Kazakhstan's regional airports in 1992, and Lufthansa of Germany and Turkish Airlines have begun international flights into Almaty. Air traffic between Kazakhstan and other CIS republics is handled mainly by Aeroflot. The airport at Almaty, Kazakhstan's only international facility, underwent a gradual modernization of instrumentation, air control, and communications facilities in the early 1990s; beginning in 1993, international traffic to and from Kyrgyzstan also moved through Almaty. In 1994, besides connections with CIS destinations, regular flights went to Frankfurt, Hannover, Vienna, Zurich, Istanbul, Delhi, Karachi, Tel Aviv, and Sharjah. In 1991 some 7.9 million passengers and about 36.4 million tons of freight passed through Kazak airports. In 1994 the republic had twenty commercial airports and another 132 classified as usable, of which forty-nine had permanent-surface runways and eight had runways longer than 3,600 meters.

Water Transport

The republic's two inland waterways, the Syrdariya in south-central Kazakhstan and the Ertis River in the northeast, have a total of 4,000 kilometers of waterway navigable by commercial craft. A state agency, the Kazakhstan River Fleet Industrial Association (Kazrechmorflot), administers river traffic. In 1992 the association's eleven water transport companies carried about 1.6 million passengers and about 7 million tons of freight.

Data as of March 1996

Last Updated: March 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Kazakhstan was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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