By Rashid Shirinov
The first freight train from Urumqi, China, to Europe within the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route arrived in Baku, Chinese media reported on January 23.
The train, laden with engineering equipment and other goods, left Urumqi on January 19, ran the Alatau pass and arrived in Baku on a ferry from the Kazakhstan port Kuryk.
It is expected that the total travel time of the train will be eight days, while the length of the route is 4,186 kilometers. This route, saving more than two-thirds of the time compared to other transportation routes, will serve as another effective logistics channel connecting China with Georgia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other countries.
Urumqi plans to send 1,400 China-Europe trains in 2018, according to the reports. The number of China-Europe freight train trips reached a new high of more than 3,000 in 2017, and is expected to reach 4,000 in 2018, according to China Railway Corporation.
The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) is intended for the supply of goods both from China to Europe through the territories of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and in the opposite direction. Management and development of the route is carried out by a consortium created by the participating countries: China Railway (China), KTZ Express (Kazakhstan), Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company (the Caspian Sea), ADY Express (Azerbaijan) and Trans Caucasus Terminals (Georgia).
In January, 2016, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Ukraine decided to apply the competitive feed-in tariffs for cargo transportation via the TITR. Single competitive rate was introduced in the framework of the route starting from June 1, 2016 with the view to reduce the costs of international cargo transportation.
About 300,000-400,000 containers are expected to be transported via the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route by 2020, bringing huge financial profits to Azerbaijan. Growing interest in the transport infrastructures passing through Azerbaijan's territory is expected to make the country a major transport hub in the region.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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