BENCHMARKS FOR TRANSPORT SECTOR
In February 2020, significant changes took place in the management structure of the transport sectors of Turkmenistan - Trkmendemirollary (Railways), Trkmenawtoulaglary (Roads), Trkmenhowaollary (Air Services), Trkmendeizderaollary (Sea and River Routes) agencies were placed under direct supervision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan.
This decision confirms the growing importance of the entire transport sector, the dynamic development of which has been prioritized both in the plans for the further rapid growth of the country's economy and in the framework of interstate cooperation in the transport sphere.
Before the realignment, the above transport agencies reported to the Ministry of Industry and Communication of Turkmenistan that was established at the beginning of 2019. The ministries of rail and road transport, the State Sea and River Transport Service, as well as the Trkmenhowaollary service were also supervised by this ministry.
The accelerated development of the transport and communication sectors is one of the priorities of the dynamic socio-economic strategy of Turkmenistan. In recent years, Turkmenistan has implemented a number of large-scale projects in this sphere. All modes of transport, including rail, road, aviation and sea are being actively developed in the country. Turkmenistan's transport network boasts more than 3.8 thousand kilometers of trunk railways, about 13.8 thousand kilometers of roads and more than 1 thousand 120 kilometers of inland shipping routes.
By the end of 2019, the growth rate in freight and passenger transportation by road, rail, air and sea amounted to 102.5 and 100.5 percent, respectively. Nevertheless, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov set the task of ensuring more robust growth rates of the main economic indicators in these sectors, as well as improving quality of services. Aiming at the successful implementation of the above task, it was decided to create a transport-communications complex accountable to vice prime ministers.
The transport-transit potential of Turkmenistan is constantly growing. Commissioning of the transnational railways Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran, Kerky - Ymamnazar (Turkmenistan) - Akin (Afghanistan) and a new railway line from the Turkmen border to the Afghan city of Turgundi is an important contribution to building the capacity of the railway transport. In the past few years, large-scale projects on construction and commissioning of the unique engineering and transport facilities have been implemented in Lebap province. In 2009-2017, there were built modern automobile bridges Turkmenabad - Farap, Atamyrat - Kerkichi, Sadi - Eldzhik and railway bridges Atamyrat - Kerkichi, Turkmenabad - Farap, as well as Halach - Khojambaz pontoon bridge over the Amu Darya River.
Modern highways have been put into operation based on innovative technologies and best international practices, and high-speed roads are under construction. For example, about 60 big and small bridges and over 70 underpasses will be built along the new highway Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi. A project on construction of the highway Ashgabat - Turkmenabad has been approved.
The technical upgrade of motor transport, accounting for the greatest share in the total transportation of goods and passengers in the country, is one of the priorities of development of the transport sector. In this regard, the cargo and passenger fleet of motor transport is regularly replenished with new vehicles.
For example, a contract worth USD 60 million was signed in March 2020 with the South Korean Hyundai Motor for supply of 400 Super Aero City buses. New buses will be delivered by 12 December 2020 to coincide with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan's neutrality. By the way, the Korean company supplied 1 200 Hyundai buses to Turkmenistan over many years of cooperation.
Equally important partnership is maintained with Russian manufacturers of automobile and aviation equipment. In December 2019, another batch of 110 KAMAZ vehicles arrived in Turkmenistan, including heavy dump trucks, shift vehicles, fuel trucks, mixer trucks and other types of equipment that will be used in the leading sectors of the country's economy.
According to the agreements, Turkmenistan will conduct a phased procurement of about 2 000 KAMAZ vehicles. In 2019, Trkmenawtoulaglary agency received two hundred heavy vehicles from Russian partners. Twenty more units of special equipment will arrive by the end of this year. Turkmenistan is one of the large and stable markets for KAMAZ products. Over the period from 2008 to 2018, more than 9 000 KAMAZ trucks and special vehicles were delivered to the country. These trucks and special equipment are widely used in various sectors of the national economy. KAMAZ dealer network operates in the cities of Ashgabat, Balkanabat, Mary and Turkmenabat.
In March 2020, Trkmenhowaollary agency signed a contract with PJSC Kazan Helicopter Plant of the Republic of Tatarstan (Russian Federation) for supply of two ambulance helicopters Mi-17-1W and ANSAT to Turkmenistan.
As President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted, partnership with the Kazan Helicopter Plant have been established for a long time. The aircraft equipment of this manufacturer has been successfully used in the national economy of Turkmenistan. According to the head of state, ANSAT and Mi-17-lW helicopters are fitted with modern medical equipment and adapted to the conditions of Turkmenistan.
The greater promotion of digital technologies is now the priority task for the transport sector, as well as for other industries of the country's economy. The head of state called for the accelerated pace of their introduction in the railway industry, intensification of work on electrification and automation of railways for unimpeded operation of high-speed trains.
The President of Turkmenistan instructed Trkmendemirollary (Railways) agency to implement reconstruction and electrification of the Turkmenabat-Turkmenbashi railway in accordance with the country's program on socio-economic development for 2019-2025.
"The country's logistics potential should be improved. Transit freight traffic should be increased by taking advantage of the capacity of the Turkmen section of the Uzen - Gyzylgaya - Bereket - Etrek - Gorgan (Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran) international railway. It is also important to accelerate the pace of reconstruction of the domestic railways," the head of state said at a recent government meeting.
The head of state also set the task to fully operationalize the Turkmenbashi international seaport. Commissioned in May 2018, this port is designed to become the key logistics hub in the region. The President of Turkmenistan instructed Trkmendeizderaollary (Sea and River Routes) to introduce electronic records of cargo arrival and departure, as well as automatic loading and unloading at the port of Turkmenbashi. He also issued instructions to more effectively use the capacities of the Balkan shipyard for construction and repair of ships.
Modernization of infrastructure and technical re-equipment of civil aviation is an important component of large-scale reforms in the transport sector. The head of state instructed Trkmenhowaollary agency to carry out work on joining the International Air Transport Association (IATA), continue training highly qualified specialists and introduce more widely digital technologies in the agency's operations through the use of latest achievements of science and technology. The President also instructed this agency to pay special attention to the development of the air navigation system, improving quality of passenger service and transit freight traffic.
The aircraft fleet is constantly being renewed. Worn out airplanes are replaced with newly purchased comfortable new-generation airliners such as Boeing 737-700 and Boeing 737-800. The country's air fleet re-equipment with these airplanes will be completed in 2020.
The ground-based air transportation infrastructure is also being developed at a fast pace. Two terminals of the Ashgabat International Airport can serve about 2 thousand passengers per hour. Up to 200 thousand tons of cargo can pass through a fully mechanized cargo terminal.
The air terminals in the cities of Balkanabat, Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenabat and Turkmenbashi boast the throughput capacity of 500 to 800 passengers per hour, including international flights. In addition, there are plans for renovation of airports in small cities, such as Atamyrat, Magdanly, Gazachak, Kunyaurgench, Khazar and others.
The main air carrier - OJSC Turkmenistan Airline - operates flights to 18 destinations abroad and 11 domestic destinations. Turkmenistan sees intensification of freight and passenger traffic as an important condition for the full integration of the Central Asian and Caspian countries into the system of world economic relations.
According to the President of Turkmenistan, "the use of road, rail and sea routes, development of the transport system in North-South and West-East directions offer broader perspectives that make it possible to connect a large space stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian and Black Seas, from the north Europe to the Indian Ocean." To this end, large-scale international projects are being implemented. Commissioning of the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway along the North-South route is one graphic example of this work.
Construction of modern bus terminals in Balkan, Dashoguz, Lebap and Mary provinces started at the beginning of this year. The operation of new bus terminals will be based on the advanced digital technologies.
Turkmen companies are currently building the high-speed Ashgabat-Turkmenabat highway. It will be of great importance both for improving international cooperation and establishing transit corridors, as well as creating well-coordinated passenger services between the provincial passenger bus terminals and the capital city.
Being an important transport, logistics and transit hub of the region, Turkmenistan pays close attention to construction of transport highways of international importance. This is the key condition for ensuring well-coordinated passenger traffic between the regions and creating an important link in the transport-transit corridor of international importance. The recent changes in the transport sector of Turkmenistan have helped to significantly increase communication with neighboring countries.
In particular, regional trade flows through Turkmenistan have been streamlined with the help of the Turkmenbashi International Sea Port on the Caspian Sea and the railway line connecting Kazakhstan with Iran.
The Afghanistan - Turkmenistan - Azerbaijan - Georgia - Turkey transport corridor is a multimodal project focused on railways and highways between five countries, including Turkmenistan. This is one of the largest planned investments in the country. This project is expected to enhance regional integration and increase trade with other countries.
Other cross-border projects include the Bereket-Etrek-Turkmenistan-Iran border railway and the project on modernization of railway corridors CAREC (Turkmenabat - Mary). It is expected that their implementation will promote economic growth in the region.
In general, projects in the field of transport infrastructure are important for Turkmenistan. They will help to streamline transportation of large cargoes, oil and oil products, mineral raw materials and agricultural products between countries.
Foreign banking institutions are involved in financing important cross-border transport projects. For example, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been supporting Turkmenistan for many years now in developing an effective integrated railway system to increase connectivity with neighboring Kazakhstan, the Persian Gulf countries, the Russian Federation and South Asia.
Given the country's favorable geo-economic position, Turkmenistan attaches great importance to developing sea and river transport. Comprehensive work is underway to improve transportation of passengers and goods, development of ports and port stations. Turkmenistan has acceded to the main international conventions governing sea trade traffic.
Two RO-PAX ferries were built at the Croatian shipyard on Turkmenistan's order. They are meant to transport passengers, trucks and other vehicles in the Caspian Sea region.
In addition to ferries, Turkmenistan purchased and put into operation tankers "Sumbar", "Hazar", "Jehun", "Bitarap", "Etrek", "Kenar", "Alaja" that correspond to international standards. These tankers currently shuttle between the Caspian Sea ports, adequately representing the country in the international shipping market.
Turkmenistan continued reconstruction of old and construction of new roads in recent years. The main road network was completely reconstructed in the country, while new highways with relevant road infrastructure were built. Additional 78 road bridges were built along the Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi and Ashgabat - Mary highways. Construction of highways is carried out jointly with erecting dozens of engineering facilities, such as transport interchanges, bridges and overpasses that help to reduce highway congestion, provide anti-mudflow protection and traffic safety.
The government of Turkmenistan allocated a soft currency loan worth USD 2.3 billion for construction of the Ashgabat - Turkmenabat highway that started in January 2019. Implementation of this large-scale project on construction of the highway stretching for about 600 kilometers was entrusted to the joint-stock company "Turkmen Autobahn", which is a member of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan. It is expected that the Ashgabat-Tejen section will be completed in December 2020 as the first stage of the project, the Tejen - Mary section in December 2022 as the second stage and the Mary - Turkmenabat section in December 2023 as the third stage.
According to experts, the new highway is very much relevant for diversification of the transit and logistics network, the economic sector of the country, businesses and the entire system of international relations of Turkmenistan.
Therefore, the transport sector of Turkmenistan develops with increasing intensity, while the effective national policy provides the foundation for turning Turkmenistan into the largest transport and transit corridor of international importance.