A long passenger train crosses the Kazakh desert in the evening.

Passenger trains for Kazakhstan: Night sleeper across the steppes

© rezoff / gettyimages

Working with international partners, countries in Central Asia are rapidly expanding their rail networks. Knorr-Bremse is one of the major players in the region – and is now supplying equipment for more than 500 new passenger cars ordered by Kazakhstan’s national rail operator KTZ.

The figures alone are enough to hint at the scope of this project. Kazakh state rail company KTZ has ordered 537 sleeper and couchette cars, including generator cars, from Stadler Rail. The manufacturer will also maintain and service the vehicles over a period of at least 20 years. This order is worth a total of EUR 2.3 billion, as the Swiss company announced at the signing ceremony just over a year ago.

Long-distance connections

“The region’s political decision-makers are increasingly prioritizing passenger rail services in particular,” explains Stanislav Knyazev, Deputy Managing Director of Knorr-Bremse Kazakhstan. “In total, the tracks operated by KTZ cover more than 16,000 kilometers, of which at least 4,200 kilometers are electrified.” Unlike in Europe, the rail network is not dense – but it does link together the major centers of the world’s ninth-largest country (by area) over very long distances. This explains KTZ’s plans for the 537 new sleeper, couchette and generator cars. The last of the standard passenger cars is expected to leave the final assembly line in less than seven years’ time. Knorr-Bremse is supplying the braking systems, as well as Train Control and Management System (TCMS) technology responsible for the control and management of various train subsystems. Both systems are capable of operating in temperatures ranging from -50°C to +45°C.

Kazakhstan – a transcontinental hub for rail freight

The picture shows Asana, the capital of Kazakhstan, at night.The picture shows Asana, the capital of Kazakhstan, at night.
The Kazakh Railways (KTŽ) serve the entire Central Asian region from Kazakhstan's capital Astana. | © gettyimages

This huge project is by no means unique in the region. Kazakhstan in particular is clearly in the process of becoming a transcontinental hub for rail freight traffic. In 2022, a Finnish logistics company opened a new container route running through what is known as the Middle Corridor and East Asia. Starting in Chongqing in China, trains pass south of Russia to end up in Kouvola in southern Finland, which is also a major rail junction. A joint venture between KTZ and Georgia’s national rail company, Georgia Railway LLC, has started to build a new container terminal – complete with rail connections – near the Georgian port of Poti on the Black Sea. And last year, China’s largest rail vehicle manufacturer, CRRC, launched a feasibility study into a new rail link that could connect China to Uzbekistan via Kyrgyzstan.

Local presence

Knorr-Bremse is also among the big names in the region that stretches between Georgia and Mongolia. A total of 147 KZ8A double locomotives for freight trains and KZ4AT passenger train locomotives currently use Knorr-Bremse braking systems, complete with state-of-the-art wheel slide protection – and about the same number of locomotives are due to be delivered over the next three years. KTZ has also commissioned the installation of numerous Knorr-Bremse products in 57 TEP33A diesel-electric locomotives – specifically brake control systems, air supply units with oil-free compressors, as well as and wheel slide protection.

Based in Astana, the teams headed by Managing Director Dmitry Danilenko look after the entire Central Asia region. The regional center is also responsible for countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Georgia. “Thanks to the many localization options we offer, we’ve created an attractive environment for our customers, while also strengthening our presence in the region”, confirms Danilenko.

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