Trans-Caspian Infrastructure Networks
The Trans-Caspian states either completed or are building or negotiating almost 200 infrastructure projects, including railways, highways, seaports and intermodal logistics centers, some of which started as late as the mid-1990s, according to the latest and most comprehensive database of infrastructure projects in the Eurasian continent. Kazakhstan has the greatest number of projects (53), followed by Kyrgyzstan (25), Afghanistan (23) and Georgia (23), Tajikistan (18), Azerbaijan (16), Turkey (15), Uzbekistan (14), and Turkmenistan (7). Most of the projects are carried out in the frameworks of the partnership between international infrastructure initiatives, such as Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA), Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and national infrastructure development programs, such as Kazakhstan’s “Nurly Zhol”, Turkey’s “Vision 2023”, and “Azerbaijan 2020”.
Road projects constitute the majority of infrastructure projects in almost every Trans-Caspian state: 44 in Kazakhstan, 24 in Kyrgyzstan, 20 in Afghanistan, 20 in Georgia, 16 in Tajikistan, 12 in Azerbaijan, 6 in Uzbekistan, 4 in Turkey, and 2 in Turkmenistan. They usually involve reconstruction of existing highways rather than an expansion or addition of new routes. 16 road projects were completed in Kazakhstan, 15 in Kyrgyzstan, 11 in Tajikistan, eight in Afghanistan, eight in Azerbaijan, five in Armenia, five in Georgia, one in Uzbekistan, and one in Turkey.
The region’s major inter-state railway project is a new rail line Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) completed in April 2017 that directly connects the countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. In terms of international routes, Turkmenistan has completed a section of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Turkmenistan railway and is building its sections of the CAREC rail corridor and Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway. Both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are building their sections of the North-South rail corridor. Tajikistan is still negotiating construction of its sections of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran railway and Russia-Kazakhstan-Tajikistan railway. Afghanistan’s Hairatan-to-Mazar-e-Sharif railway project completed in 2011 links Afghanistan’s northern province to Uzbekistan’s railway network. It is only one of two railways ever built in Afghanistan the first of which was constructed nearly a century ago. The rest of the Trans-Caspian countries are mainly engaged in the modernization of their national railway network: Turkey completed six of its eight “Vision 2023”high-speed railway projects; Uzbekistan completed three of its eight railway electrification projects, and Kazakhstan completed three of its four “Nurly Zhol” rail modernization projects.
In regards to the seaport and intermodal projects, Turkey completed construction of Yarimca port and Ankara logistics base. Kazakhstan opened Khorgos dry port on the Kazakh-Chinese border and launched Aktau international sea commercial port. Kazakhstan is also building a ferry complex at the port of Kuryk and negotiating construction of the Aktau international multimodal transportation and logistics center and Aktobe transportation and logistics hub. There is an ongoing construction of the Turkmenbashi international seaport in Turkmenistan, Anaklia deep-water port in Georgia and Baku international sea trade port in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is also negotiating the construction of Alyat International Logistics Center. Afghanistan is building the Torkham dry port and implementing the Second Customs Reform and Trade Facilitation project.