KAZAKHSTAN: ‘Nurly Zhol station is unique, there is no such station in the entire post-Soviet area’, said President Nursultan Nazarbayev when he officially opened the new passenger hub in Astana on May 31.

The first passenger services began using the station on June 1, and the first international service arrived from Samarkand on June 3. The station is used by 54 services, including 22 fast trains operated using Tulpar-Talgo coaches, 16 services operated using conventional stock and 16 commuter services.

Nurly Zhol station has been developed by national railway KTZ under the president’s sustainable development policy for Astana which was announced in April 2014, and it is named after the national development strategy. It was designed by a team including BuroHappold, Tabanlioglu Architects, Jamas and Sembol Construction. The complex has 126 000 m2 of enclosed space on six levels, with passengers boarding and alighting at six tracks on the third level. It is designed for a capacity of 35 000 passengers per day, compared to 12 000 passengers per day at the older station which will continue to be served by local trains.

There are hotel rooms, parent and child facilities, medical offices, food outlets and more than 1 500 parking spaces. Intelligent control systems manage passenger throughput, queuing, security and electronic ticket sales. There are tactile paths and Braille signs for the visually impaired, and dedicated desks for passengers with accessibility needs.

The building is equipped with energy-saving lifts and escalators. Ground heat exchangers preheat air coming from the street in the winter and cool it in summer, while the air-conditioning system distributes cold and heat from one external unit to several internal ones. Rainwater is collected for the cleaning and irrigation.

The station has been opened ahead of Expo 2017, with staff receiving special training to greet foreign visitors. ‘Volunteers will help guests to obtain information about the sale of tickets, travel to the venue and hotels, call taxis and provide other useful information’, said KTZ deputy director Abai Dosanov.