Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway to be commissioned in 2016

By Vusala Abbasova

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway route will be commissioned in November 2016, said Javid Gurbanov, the head of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC.

"We plan to start cargo transportation by late 2016, to complete work on the electrification of railway and the creation of other railway infrastructure during the next year," Gurbanov said at the international conference titled Prospects of Development of Transit Potential of Azerbaijan on October 13.

He also noted that the timing of the work depends not only on Azerbaijan, but also other participants of the project.

“The Turkish side should have built a 75-kilometer stretch of rail, but to date, even the laying of the so-called upper part of the railway line hasn’t been completed,” said Gurbanov, speaking about the delay in the construction of the railway.

As is known, the BTK railway is being constructed under a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement.

The State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ) is financing the project in accordance to an Azerbaijani presidential decree titled “On the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project activities” dated February 21, 2007.

SOFAZ has allocated two loans totaling $775 million for the construction of the Georgian section.

Azerbaijan has already ordered 30 new carriages from the Swiss Stadler Rail Group for use on the BTK railway, which will be available next summer.

These carriages are equipped with an automatically shifting wheelbase, to accommodate for changes in the width of railway track.

The new 10, 20, and 32-seater passenger cars will have built-in Wi-Fi and other novelties.

Moreover, Georgia is currently renovating the railway's Akhalkalaki-Marabda-Tbilisi section in order to increase its capacity to 15 million metric tons of cargo per year.

The peak capacity of the corridor will be 17 million metric tons of cargo per year. At the initial stage, this figure will be equal to one million passengers and 6.5 million metric tons of cargo.

The BTK railway line will expand multi-modal transportation opportunities and ensure the growth of passenger and freight transportation.

It has already attracted the attention of countries like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

After the third year of operation, the projected volume of cargo under the railway line will be three million tons; five million tons after the fifth year; and after its tenth year, the railway could accommodate more than 10 million tons of cargo.

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