By Ofeliya Afandiyeva
The first Chinese freight train traveling the China Railway Express line, which runs from China to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and goes directly to Europe via the Marmaray railway, set off from Ankara on November 7.
Deputy Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan Niyazi Safarov has described this as a historical event, during the grand ceremony held on November 6 to welcome the first container train from China to Europe, following the route Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) in Ankara.
"The transit lines play a key role in serving the interests of our countries and peoples. This is just the beginning, and we think that the number of trains and containers will increase in the near future and will contribute to the establishment of economic ties and relations between the countries,” the minister said.
The train carrying 42 containers of electronic product along the Marmaray Turkish tunnel, will travel through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia to its final destination, Prague.
During the ceremony, a protocol was signed between the participating countries to reorganize the China Railway Express in terms of the quality of the Trans-Caspian route.
Addressing the ceremony, Turkish Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Turhan stressed that "the Iron Silk Road, which benefits approximately 5 billion people and 60 countries, has become a new and very important alternative for global trade networks."
Azerbaijani Ambassador to Turkey Khazar Ibrahim said during the ceremony that "after many years, the Silk Road is functioning again. Products from China are now reaching Europe."
Khazar emphasized the importance of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which is an essential part of the line.
"Without communication, economy cannot be strengthened. Today we have close communication, stable economy, young generation and most importantly, political will. When it all comes together it will be a great contribution to all these countries," the ambassador added.
He also pointed out that the line will be used for transportation of passengers in the future.
The train is traveling over two continents, 10 countries, two seas and 11,483 kilometers (7,135 miles) of road in 12 days with 42 container-loaded wagons.
The ceremony was attended by Azerbaijani Deputy Minister of Economy Niyazi Safarov, Turkish Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Mehmet Cahit Turhan, Turkish Minister of Trade Ruhsar Pekjan, Secretary of China's Xinjiang Regional Party Committee Hu Heping, Chairman of the Board of “Kazakhstan Railways” JSC Temir Zholy Sayat Mynbayev, Georgian Railway officials, among others. After the speeches, the beep sounded and the freight train departed.
It should be noted that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was constructed on the basis of Azerbaijani-Georgian-Turkish interstate agreement signed in 2007. The project began in 2008, and the opening ceremony of the cargo movement along the BTK took place on October 30, 2017.
The transportation capacity of BTK is estimated one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year. In the future, the capacity of the transport corridor can be increased to three million passengers and 20 million tons of cargo annually.
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