Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line is opening up reconnecting Asia to Europe

On October 30, 2017, the ceremony on departure of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway line’s first train from New Baku International Sea Port will be attended by Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbekistan Prime Minister Abdullah Arypov.

The project of a railroad between Azerbaijan and Turkey through Georgia was first discussed in July 1993 and a multi-lateral accord to build the link was signed by the three countries in January 2005. In February 2007 in Tbilisi, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey signed a trilateral agreement to launch the construction of the railroad the same year.

On November 21, 2007, the presidents of Georgia – Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Azerbaijan – Ilham Aliyev, and Turkey – Abdullah Gül inaugurated the construction of the railroad at a groundbreaking ceremony at the Marabda junction south of Tbilisi, and the first rails in Turkey began to be laid in July 2008 from Kars.

For the construction of the railroad on Georgian territory, Azerbaijan provided a US$775 million loan to Georgia, signed between a Georgian state-owned company Marabda-Karsi Railroad LLC and Azerbaijan.

In total 105 kilometers of new line has been built between Kars and Akhalkalaki, with 76 kilometers within Turkey and 29 kilometers in Georgia. The existing railway line from Akhalkalaki to Marabda and on to Tbilisi and Baku has been modernized.

Its total length is 826 kilometers and it will be able to transport 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of freight at the first stage. According to estimates, the railway line will be capable of carrying 17 million tons of cargo and about three million passengers by 2030.

Transportation between China and Europe will take about 15 days with the completion of the Middle Corridor. The BTK railway project will be one of the main connectors in terms of transportation projects which also include the EU-led Transport Europe-Caucasus-Asia Corridor (TRACECA) and the One Belt One Road Middle Corridor.

Implementation of an international railway project in the scope of the “Iron Silk Road” through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line and the construction of a railway line tunnel in Bosporus, along with connecting Trans-Europe and Trans-Asia railway networks and carrying freight and passengers directly through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey territories from Europe to Asia, will boost the transit potential of the countries and accelerate the processes of integration in Europe, developing the cooperation within the framework of European Neighborhood policy.

The Georgian Railway company believes that increasing trade between Turkey and Central Asia provides it with a significant opportunity to capture trade flows, particularly raw materials imported into Turkey from Central Asia and finished goods exported by Turkey. With respect to Turkey-Russian trade, company believes there is an opportunity to capture more volumes, particularly of dry cargo, that are now shipped via Iran or the Russia-Black Sea route.

The project, which will bring vitality to the region both in terms of employment and trade, is the third largest project realized by all three countries after the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum projects in the energy sector.

Photo by JSC Georgian Railway