Better, greener public transport for Kazakhstan

By Volker Ahlemeyer

The EBRD is helping modernize public transport in Almaty, Kazakhstan. By providing a loan to Almaty Electrotrans, the municipal tram and trolley bus company, Almaty's public transport will soon be greener and more efficient.

With 1.5 million inhabitants, Almaty is Kazakhstan’s biggest city and serves as an important transport hub. Workers commute from surrounding towns and villages while international visitors fly in to take advantage of Almaty’s plentiful business opportunities and good connections to other Central Asian cities.

But travelling through Almaty requires stamina. Enormous traffic jams clog its tree-lined boulevards. The city’s location in a valley backed by snow-covered mountains means that smog, caused by countless old cars using poor quality fuel, is a serious and growing concern.

Cutting delays and pollution

The solution should lie in a better, more environmentally-friendly public transport system. With this in mind, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has provided Almaty Electrotrans, the municipal tram and trolley bus company, with a US $10 million loan.

“As part of the project, the electric substations will be modernised, which will improve the reliability of our transport system,” says Almaty Electrotrans’ director Talgat Abdrahmanov. “As Almaty is quite a polluted city, a better electric transport network will also positively affect the environmental situation.”

As well as being much cleaner than motorised vehicles, trams and trolley buses are more energy efficient. Electric transport consumes less than half the energy per kilometre compared with regular diesel buses.

“Furthermore, a public service contract will be introduced, which will define rights and obligations between the city and the company,” says Katya Miroshnik, Senior Banker in the EBRD’s Municipal & Environmental Infrastructure team. “This will help ensure certain standards of urban public transport provision in the city.”

Further support for the transport system

The drive to modernise Almaty’s public transport does not stop here. As part of the project, the EBRD is providing technical cooperation grants, funded by donor countries, to support institutional development. This will help ensure that the Bank’s investment has a long-term impact on the company and on the city.

“A grant from the Netherlands will serve to support Almaty Electrotrans’ corporate development programme and a grant from Germany will help the company with procurement and the implementation of the project,” says Mrs Miroshnik. “We also obtained two grants from Austria and Singapore to assist the city with the development of a light rail transit system in Almaty.”

The donor-backed investment will therefore not only improve public transport in the Kazakh city, but also help turn Almaty into a “greener” and more environmentally friendly place to live.