Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railways construction continues
By Messenger Staff
Monday, August 30The commencement of operations of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is of great importance to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. According to the opinion of these three countries, this will be a very significant route for transporting cargo from Europe to China and vice versa. Georgia in particular believes that this railway could be yet another excellent example of regional cooperation together with Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum oil and gas pipelines. Turkish President Abdullah Gul also highlighted the importance of the project during his recent visit to Baku on August 16. He mentioned that using these railways both goods and people can travel between China, Central Asia, as far as London by train, and that the project is being observed with great interest by China and Kazakhstan. The Turkish President mentioned that the railway will open in 2012 and it is envisaged that during its first year it will carry 1 million passengers and 6 million tonnes of cargo. The railway will have branches, one of which will be from Kars to the Azeri territory of Nakhchevan, which is separated from Azerbaijan's main territory by Armenia. Work on the construction of different segments of the railway is underway. Turkish Transport Minister, Binali Yildirim stated that work on the Kars-Nakhchevan branch will coincide with the Akhalkalaki-Kars main railway.
During the meeting of the working group in the beginning of August, the delegations stressed the importance of finishing the work on time. Over the past year there have been some delays in the construction and for a number of different reasons the cost has increased. Despite this, it was decided that the necessary finance should be gathered and greater effort should be made by bring in additional equipment and manpower. The construction of Akhalkalaki railway station will start before the end of this year and be completed in 2011. The decision for the construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was finally agreed upon on February 8, 2007. The railway will consist of 105 km of track, of which 76 km will be in Turkey and 29 in Georgia. In addition old segments of railway up to Akhalkalaki must be reconditioned. A third of the construction work on Turkish territory is already complete. There is a difficult segment running through the mountainous part of Turkey, four km in length, where the work is just being started.
For the construction of the Georgian segment, Azerbaijan allotted a 25-year term soft loan for USD 200 million. The total amount to be spent on the project is more than USD 600 million. Initially the project was supposed to be finished by mid 2011, but as a result of some technical problems, the project has been delayed for one more year. Analysts believe that in addition to the economic significance, the project has huge political importance, primarily for Azerbaijan, which plans to establish regular contact with its region of Nakhchevan as well as put a further grip of isolation on Armenia. Some analysts suggest that it has purely political importance and will not be economically profitable.