Experience of the development of locomotive building plants in Kazakhstan

Considering the needs to renew the traction rolling stock in Ukraine, the issue of organizing joint ventures with leading manufacturers of railway equipment is urgent. Kazakhstan has significant experience in this area. Enterprises with global manufacturers such as Alstom, CRRC, Wabtec, Transmashholding and others were established and operate here.

development of locomotive building plants
The main role in the development of the railway engineering industry in Kazakhstan was played by the support of the state and the president (in the photo – the opening of an enterprise for the assembly of Chinese shunting diesel locomotives)

The railway industry in Kazakhstan has been created virtually from scratch over the past 15 years. The leading role in this, at the initial stage, was played by the State Program of Priority Industrial and Innovative Development of Kazakhstan. In fact, by order of the then President of the country, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the government in a very short period of time created a new industrial sector – railway engineering.

Statistics testify to the rapid development: if in 2008 this sector brought the economy of Kazakhstan only 10 billion tenge, then at the peak of development in 2013 – more than 200 billion tenge (0.8 billion euros), which is 20 times more. True, in subsequent years, the economic crisis (due to the decline in world oil prices) and the fall in the national currency rate undermined the financial condition and purchasing power of the main customer – JSC NC Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) – and the volume of support for the industry sharply fell. But, let’s talk about everything in order …

There are various joint projects with foreign companies in Kazakhstan. For this purpose, on the outskirts of the capital city Nur-Sultan (formerly – Astana), a special economic zone “Astana-Zhana Kala” (“New city of Astana”) with an area of ​​more than 7.5 thousand hectares has been created.

Diesel locomotives

One of the first created together with the American GE Transportation (now — Wabtec) was the enterprise JSC “Lokomotiv krastyru Zauyty” (“LKZ”). It began with the fact that in 2006 KTZ ordered 310 Evolution diesel locomotives of the TE33A class. The first 10 vehicles, according to the contract, were built in the USA and delivered to Kazakhstan. This gave time for the construction of a new plant in 2007-2008, as well as completion of the testing process, adjustment and training of personnel.

development of locomotive building plants
For the most massive types of rolling stock, Kazakhstani manufacturers managed to achieve localization of 38% in the cost of final products

The first diesel locomotive of the Evolution series assembled in Astana was TE33A-0011 at the end of 2009. Serial production at the enterprise began a year later.

In addition to the local market, locomotives were supplied to Tajikistan, Ukraine (for the Ivano-Frankovsk Cement company), Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Moldova and Azerbaijan. It was also planned to export diesel locomotives to the Baltic countries, the Russian Federation and Poland (for the LHS broad-gauge line). However, despite all efforts, this has not yet been realized.

The main customer of the plant was KTZ. Almost 300 diesel locomotives were supplied there by 2017. Thus, the primary goal was practically achieved. Contracts have been signed for further supplies, including for the passenger modification of the TEP33A. However, production is proceeding at a very slow pace due to the financial difficulties of the customer and the saturation of the local market.

development of locomotive building plants
New passenger diesel locomotives TEP33A are one of the most promising types of Wabtec products in Kazakhstan

After the 2015 crisis, Kazakhstan Railways began to withdraw from the rolling stock production business, focusing on its core business – transportation. LKZ was founded as a joint venture with 50/50 shares between KTZ and the Russian Transmashholding (TMH). In 2017, the share owned by the railway was bought by GE.

In addition, the American company acquired half of the shares in a new plant dedicated to the production of GEVO engines. The launch of this enterprise was intended to increase the share of localization in the price of diesel locomotives from 30% to 50%. However, as a result, nothing is produced here now, but the existing diesel engines are maintained and repaired.

Electric locomotives and wagons

Another enterprise located on the territory of the special economic zone is the electric locomotive plant “Elektrovoz krastyru Zauyty” (“ECO”). It was founded in 2010 jointly by Remlokomotiv (a subsidiary of KTZ, with a 50% share), TMH (25%) and the French concern Alstom (25%).

The plant, with a staff of 440 people, was opened in 2012. It is located near the aforementioned “LKZ”, which acts as one of the suppliers of components.

development of locomotive building plants
Workers of the Alstom plant in Kazakhstan

The basic order was a 2010 contract for the supply of 295 AC electric locomotives to KTZ for 10 years. 200 of which were KZ8A (Prima T8) freight locomotives, the rest were passenger KZ4AT (Prima M4). As in the case of diesel locomotives, the first 10 electric locomotives were manufactured abroad (Belfort, France). Another 15 were delivered to Kazakhstan as assembly kits.

However, ECO’s ambitious production plans were unsuccessful. A little more than 50 locomotives were produced in total. The reason is the lack of funds in KTZ.

By analogy with LKZ, in 2016 there was also a purchase of a share belonging to the state railway by Alstom.

development of locomotive building plants
Electric locomotives in the “ECO” workshop – similar locomotives, but not of Kazakhstani origin

In addition, on the territory of the Astana-Zhana Kala FEZ, in a joint venture with the Chinese CRRC, shunting diesel locomotives CKD6E are produced for the market of Central Asian countries. Since 2012, more than 200 locomotives have been produced here. Shunting locomotives are assembled by Kamkor Lokomotiv LLC

Due to the crisis, the Tulpar-Talgo plant, which manufactured the rolling stock of the Spanish company Talgo, was also redesigned for a different type of product. In the period from 2011 to 2017, more than 600 such wagons were built on it. However, since 2016, volumes began to fall rapidly. As a result, the enterprise was sold to Transmashholding, after which the plant moved from cooperation with Talgo to the production of wagons from the sets of the Tver Carriage Works (part of the TMH group).

Summary

With the political will of the country’s top leadership, Kazakhstan managed to create a new branch of mechanical engineering in just 5-10 years. Rapid development with significant government support continued until 2015. However, due to economic difficulties and a decrease in orders from KTZ, the enterprises faced serious difficulties that they still cannot overcome.

The collapse of the national currency in 2016 led to the stagnation of the industry (the graph shows the dynamics of the exchange rate of the Kazakhstani tenge against the US dollar)

However, manufacturers do not lose hope for an increase in the export of products manufactured in Kazakhstan to countries with a track gauge of 1520 mm. The country has actually become the main production site in the region of Central and Central Asia. A number of enterprises were redesigned for other orders or maintenance of rolling stock.

Railway magazine “Railway Supply”

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