By Sara Israfilbayova
Azerbaijan is a place that links all developing markets, Wojciech Balczun, former CEO of Ukrainian Railways, told Azernews.
“I truly admire the activity of Azerbaijani Railways that together with Georgian partners, successfully uses the countries’ specific location between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea to improve the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route,” he added.
He went on to say that this is due to complicated and costly logistics processes and operations, including both embarkation and unloading, mainly in ports.
“We deal here with a mixed kind of transport, both rail and marine one, whilst I strongly believe that there is enough determination to make this offer reach an acceptable level,” the expert noted.
Further, he stressed that a significant progress was made last year, but it does not mean that there are no more issues to resolve.
“The debate still considers the creation of an offer that would allow the TITR transport to be competitive for the Trans-Siberian Railway. While being a CEO of Ukrainian Railways I paid great attention to cooperation with partners from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia and I evaluate this cooperation very positive,” he explained.
Touching upon the commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, Balczun emphasized that any diversification or development of TITR’s transportation offer makes it more attractive for prospective contractors.
“First of all, Turkey itself is a massive market and dynamically developing country. Secondly, it is located by the Black Sea which means a great transportation potential for countries in this region and then Europe,” he mentioned.
The expert pointed out that he finds it impressive that the first stage of the project assumes the flow of 6.5 million tons of goods.
“This should be made possible thanks to the investments in the train line 1435 (which is compatible with 1520) and purchase of 30 variable-gauge coaches which will reduce the run time and eliminated the need of handling. The development of the BTK line raises the attractiveness of this project for the investors interested in good exchange between Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Middle East,’ he underlined.
With the regard to the attraction of transit and foreign trade goods Balczun said that there are two key elements in logistics industry: price and time.
“We know that when it comes to time TITR’s offer may be competitive for the Trans-Siberian Railway however the price still remains to be a challenge. This is due complicated and costly logistics processes and operations, including both embarkation and unloading, mainly in ports. We deal here with mixed transport, both rail and marine one, however I strongly believe that there is enough determination to make this offer reach an acceptable level,” the expert stressed.
In conclusion he expressed hope that customs and bureaucratic obstacles for carriers will be discussed by the work groups as the simplification of the customs procedures will greatly impact the attractiveness and competitiveness of this route.
“I am aware that it is not a simple task, but rather a challenge for partnering countries cooperating within TITR,” he concluded.
The agreement on creation of the TITR was signed in April 2016 in Baku by the railway authorities of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan.
TITR is a project initiated to improve transit potential and development of the countries of the Caspian region. This route runs from China through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and further to Europe.
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