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Prospects of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, February 4
Today construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is frozen in both senses of this word. It has been stopped or temporarily suspended due to heavy snow and frost on the ground, Deputy Transport Minister of Azerbaijan Musa Panakhov recently stated. However he added that the way the construction is continuing is satisfying all parties to it.

Panakhov stated that by the end of 2010 the new railway line will be 70-80% finished and by the end of 2011 it will be completed. It should start functioning in mid-2012. He added that a survey carried out in 2009 revealed that the route from Georgia’s border to Kars is in very bad condition, so rehabilitation work on this segment should be intensified, result in a cost overrun.

There is also one more issue, the reconstruction of the Akhalkalaki railway station. A depot for changing the wheels of the carriages is being built here, as the railways in the former Soviet area have a 1,520 millimetre gauge whereas in Turkey the European standard gauge of 1,435 millimetres is used, so the wheels of trains crossing the Turkish border will need to be changed.

Some time ago a meeting was held in Tbilisi to discuss the budget for this project. In 2010 one hundred million dollars will be allotted by the Azeri oil foundation on the decision of President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

This project involves building 105 kilometres of new track, of which 76 kilometres are in Turkish territory, 29 in Georgia, and rehabilitating an existing 183 km of track on Georgian territory. This work will eventually make it possible to transport more than 15 million tonnes of cargo annually along this route.