Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s remarks about the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway at the interactive session "Strategic Outlook: Eurasia" at the World Economic Forum in Davos will draw additional attention to BTK, National Secretary of the IGC TRACECA in Azerbaijan Akif Mustafayev told Trend.
"President Aliyev said everything at the right time and in the right place,” Mustafayev added. “This drew attention of many businessmen, heads of state and government, participating in the forum, to the BTK."
“Indeed, after BTK railway was commissioned, we changed the map of the region,” he said. “The solemn opening of BTK railway was held. It attracted the attention of the whole world. A great number of world media outlets and a big number of countries, willing to join the project, mention BTK. All this testifies to the importance of the project."
Speaking about the importance of BTK railway, Mustafayev also mentioned the fact that a few days ago a train left Urumqi city (the capital of Xinjiang-Uygur autonomous region of China). It will run through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, via BTK through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Istanbul and further to Europe.
"The entire route is about 4,250 kilometers and it will take only 8-10 days,” Mustafayev added. “But the most important thing is that China, which earlier preferred the Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Europe route, has paid attention to our route. China intends to send about 1,400 trains via this route during the year, which is about 4-5 trains per day only from China, which is a huge figure for us."
He also added that it is necessary to solve a number of tasks.
"As for the infrastructure, Azerbaijan has done everything,” he added. “The railways were modernized. A new sea trade port is being constructed. The Ro-Ro terminal has been recently commissioned in the port. Earlier, ferry terminal was commissioned. A free trade zone is being created.”
“And what Azerbaijan is doing on the initiative and with the support of the country’s president was also initiated on the other side of the Caspian Sea,” Mustafayev said. “Kazakhstan constructed a new Kuryk port. About 29,000 freight wagons run between Baku and Kuryk port in 2017. This intensifies transportation from China to Europe."
"Kazakhstan also improved its infrastructure, reduced the length of the railway from China to the central part of the country,” he said. “A lot of work has been done in Georgia. The railway was modernized through the Azerbaijani side’s funds. Tunnels were built in Turkey. The railway crossing to Kars opened. BTK works, but this is only the beginning. The procedures and tariffs should be coordinated. Uniform tariffs should be set. Tariffs should be published on the websites of our structures for carriers to know in advance the transportation cost."
Mustafayev added that the transition to the digitalization of the transportation process will be another important step.
"All transportation operations, including customs declarations, invoices, etc., must be made in e-form,” he said. “This will be the first step in digitalization. In the future, the payment will be also in e-form.”
“All this must be done in Azerbaijan,” he said. “Azerbaijan must be exemplary for neighboring countries. We must strive to turn our corridor into the shortest, most attractive, digital corridor. It is easy to do. We must think about that. We must work in this direction to increase the attractiveness of BTK railway, through which goods will be transported from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan to Turkey and Europe and backwards - from Europe, Turkey to the Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan.”
“However, the most global task is to attract cargo from China,” he said. “Xinjiang Uygur region has a huge potential and the more cargo will be transported, the more profit will be received.”
“From this point of view, it is especially important to create a free trade zone and a logistics center in Baku, where warehousing, packaging, planning of further transportation of goods will be carried out, which creates added value,” he said. “In general, BTK railway has bright prospects. President Aliyev made important statements in Davos and drew public attention. We must move and work in the right direction."
The official opening ceremony of the BTK railway was held in Baku Oct. 30, 2017. The BTK railway was constructed on the basis a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement.
The railway’s peak capacity will be 17 million tons of cargo per year. At an initial stage, this figure will be one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo.
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