By Leman Mammadova
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) project connecting the railways of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey strengthens economies of the countries by boosting their transit potential.
Minister of Transport and Infrastructure of Turkey Mehmet Cahit Turhan has told Turkish media that the BTK railway not only links Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, but also connects China and the countries of Central Asia with Europe.
He noted that this makes the project a very significant initiative, especially given the strategic importance of the BTK railway corridor. The minister added that in the coming years, the importance of the BTK railway will be increasing.
Turhan further said that Turkey and Azerbaijan will create a joint venture for the production of railway cars as part of the BTK project. He noted that the JV will be set up in Azerbaijan and that the area for construction of the joint venture's premises was already inspected.
Earlier, Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC Javid Gurbanov said that Azerbaijan and Turkey are considering joint production of railway cars. In his words, the joint production is planned to be organized in Azerbaijan's Sumgayit city.
"The width of the railway track in Azerbaijan is 1,520 mm, which is provided for Russian cars, while the European standard is 1,435 mm. Our trains have large dimensions that do not allow them to pass through tunnels. To address this issue, we conduct negotiations with Turkish experts on production of hybrid trains, which can be used them in Azerbaijan, Turkey and elsewhere in Europe," Gurbanov said.
Providing the shortest rail link between Europe and Asia, BTK plays an important role in the implementation of China's One Belt, One Road strategy and the International North-South Transport Corridor. In fact, the BTK railway route is the shortest way to deliver cargo from the Russian regions located in the Volga, Ural and Siberian Federal Districts to the Mediterranean ports of Turkey, and further to the countries of Africa and the Middle East.
At present, the BTK provides transportation from Kazakhstan to Mersin port. Some cargoes are delivered from Russia to Turkey and Europe.
The total length of the BTK railway is 846 km, with 504 km running through the territory of Azerbaijan, 263 km - Georgia and 79 km - Turkey.
The opening ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was held on October 30, 2017 at the Baku International Sea Trade Port. At the initial stage, the volume of freight will be at the level of 6.5 million tons of cargo, and up to 1 million passengers will be transported. This capacity will then reach 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo.
Regular passenger transportation by BTK is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2019.
The main purpose of the project is to improve economic relations between the three countries and attract foreign direct investment by connecting Europe and Asia.
Azerbaijan and Turkey are also working on the Kars-Igdir-Nakhchivan railway project, which is the continuation of the BTK railway.
The railway will also be linked to a logistics center in Kars, which is still under construction. Implemented jointly with Azerbaijan, the construction of the logistics center will be completed by the end of this year. A 300,000 square meter land plot was allotted for the logistics center. Around 412,000 tons of cargo are expected to be transported through it annually.
The agreement on the creation of the logistics center was signed on July 19 last year, during the visit of Head of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC Javid Gurbanov to the Kars province. This is one of the most important logistics centers in eastern Turkey. The logistics center in Kars will also contribute to the development of the region.
All these projects are also included in the Middle Corridor project in Turkey. The initiative was launched to provide an alternative to the northern routes of the New SIlk Road, which transport cargo through Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, to Europe at the border with Poland. The Middle Corridor runs from China to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia to Turkey, providing another gateway to Europe via the Black Sea.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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