International North–South Transport Corridor: Investments and Soft Infrastructure

Reports and working papers focus on current economic issues in EDB member states in the light of both regional and global economic developments.

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26 October 2022

The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is the key element of the Eurasian Transport Network. It is linked to most latitudinal transport corridors, expanding opportunities for logistics and supply chains between EAEU countries, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The three INSTC routes – the Western (via Azerbaijan), Eastern (via Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan) and Trans-Caspian (via Caspian seaports) ones – enable to create New Logistics for delivery of grain, metals, wood products, food, containerised cargo.

Various physical and soft infrastructure barriers stand in the way of the INSTC successful development. EDB analysts have identified and grouped more than 40 infrastructural, tariff, administrative, and financial barriers. The analysis showed that the factors that affect corridor competitiveness most significantly are critical infrastructure bottlenecks; lack of harmonised border crossing procedures; paper-based transport documents; and lack of an effective coordination mechanism for managing the corridor, including tariffs as well as freight and vehicle insurance.

EDB researchers have also prepared a database of INSTC investment projects using open-source data, national transport strategies and programmes. The database comprises more than 100 projects that are currently ongoing or being planned for implementation before 2030, for a total of over US $38 billion.

The projects have been divided into three groups. Those of the highest priority (Priority 1) are the projects which are critical to eliminating infrastructure barriers along the existing routes. These are, in particular, the projects to construct the missing Resht–Astara railway section; construct second main tracks and electrify railway lines in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan; construct bypass roads around the cities, upgrade inland waterways and channels and develop container and general cargo terminals in Caspian ports; modernise border crossing points and construct logistics centres and roadside service facilities. Bank analysts estimate investment in Priority 1 projects at US $10.7 billion.

Prioritisation of the INSTC Investment Projects

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Source: EDB

The EDB’s report confirms the significant capital intensity of the projects to develop INSTC land infrastructure, especially roads and railways. They will require more than 86% of total investments.

Investment in INSTC Development by Mode of Transport

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Source: EDB

To improve transport performance as well as the quality of transport and logistics services and to reduce the negative impact on the environment and climate, investment is needed in projects that upgrade rolling stock and transhipment equipment in seaports and at transport and logistics centres.

The Western Route of the INSTC is supposed to receive the bulk of investments (69%), with the Eastern Route and the Trans-Caspian Route getting 12% and 19%, respectively. The Eastern and Trans-Caspian Routes will require fewer capital expenditures to reach their full potential compared to the Western Route.

State budgets continue to play a major role in financing the corridor. The share of public investment in INSTC development reaches almost 80% in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan and 76% in Russia. However, some of the projects to upgrade the fleet and rolling stock or develop roadside and logistics infrastructure are bankable and could be implemented as public-private partnerships. This would promote the involvement of private investors and multilateral development banks in their implementation.

The EDB’s report formulates several groups of measures to eliminate barriers, which will help expedite INSTC operationalisation and improve its efficiency.

Key Soft Infrastructure Improvement Measures for Effective Operation of the INSTC

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Source: EDB

Investment projects, once implemented, and enhanced INSTC soft infrastructure are likely to boost freight traffic, reduce cargo delivery times, ensure more effective transport infrastructure comprising the Eurasian Transport Network, expand the market for transport and logistics services, improve the quality of logistics and container services, assure road safety and security of freight and transport operations in the Caspian region, and foster mutual beneficial co-operation between the countries involved in transport and New Logistics.

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