ASIA: The national railways of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have launched a passenger service between Almaty and Toshkent using wide-bodied coaches developed by Talgo. The first train arrived in the Uzbek capital on March 22.

Regular services will initially run twice per week in each direction, departing from Almaty on Saturdays and Mondays and from Toshkent on Sundays and Tuesdays, with a journey time of 16 h for the 964 km route calling at Otar, Shu, Taraz, Shymkent and Saryagash. There will be ‘simplified’ border controls, which KTZ said ‘in general takes about 1½ h’.

The trains have a capacity of more than 400 passengers. Grand class cars have suites for two people with a toilet and shower. Business class cars have two-bed compartments with washbasins, and Tourist class compartments have four berths.

The first coaches built to the wide body design began entering service with Kazakhstan’s KTZ in December. They have been certified for operation at speeds up to 200 km/h and temperatures between -50ºC and 45ºC in the Eurasian Economic Union member states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

The 3 200 mm wide vehicles are an evolution of the 2 950 mm wide design which the Astana-based Tulpar-Talgo joint venture has been manufacturing for a number of years. The latest generation is designed to offer more interior space by making more effective use of the large loading gauge available in the 1 520 mm gauge region. The Talgo cars also offer better accessibility than traditional coach designs, with the floor being level with the platform so that there are no steps up into the train.