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Kars-Akhalkalaki railway construction problems

By Messenger Staff
Friday, September 4
Construction of the Karsi-Akhalkalaki railway is proceeding very slowly. In 2009 it has stopped several times. Officially the first suspension was due to a very severe winter at the construction site, then a landslide at the place where the tunnel should have been built was blamed for another. Later some rumours appeared in the media that Russia was putting pressure on Azerbaijan to delay the project, but these have not been confirmed.

Azerbaijan has allotted USD 200 million in credit to the project for 25 years at a one percent interest rate. According to the Azeri media by the end of August 2009 only USD 33 million of this had actually been disbursed and the 100 million is planned for the end of this year. Georgian officials still express confidence that the part of the construction on Georgian territory will be completed by 2012.

The Karsi-Akhalkalaki railway was fiercely opposed by Armenia, which suggested that the existing Karsi-Gumri (Armenia) tracks could be used instead as it needs only slight renovation. The normalising of Turkish-Armenian relations will eventually mean that this railway will be opened, but it is unlikely that cargo there could be transported to Azerbaijan until the Karabakh problem is settled. Therefore there is still a need for the Karsi-Akhalkalaki railway, and hopefully even with certain delays the project will be implemented.