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Baku–Akhalkalaki–Kars to face competition

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Tuesday, January 15
Last year saw the start of construction of the Baku–Akhalkalaki–Kars railway, touted by president-elect Mikheil Saakashvili as a “geopolitical revolution” that would provide an alternative to Russia’s Trans-Siberian transit corridor for Chinese cargo.

However, a fast cargo service between Hamburg and Beijing, which is scheduled to start operating in 2009, may provide some serious competition. China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany signed an agreement on January 9 that will see all six nations simplify border and customs procedures at state boundaries, in order to minimize train crossing times, according to the China Post.

The service is expected to be twice as quick as shipping cargo the same distance via the Indian Ocean. However, transit costs along the rail route are likely to be higher than shipping costs, which may limit the appeal of the new service.