The new Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) rail line proposed to connect Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey was initially meant to have been completed seven years ago. However, now the Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan has announced that the line should be up and running at the end of June. The 826 kilometre route is intended to transport an initial volume of 6.5 million tonnes and a million passengers, with the intention to rise to 17 million tonnes and three million passengers once it reaches full capacity. This inter-regional project will become very important to connect the three countries and a very significant part of the middle corridor for the modern Silk Road. It is hoped to improve the economic relations between the three countries and promoting foreign direct investment from Europe through to Asia.
"Now this new line will allow goods to be transported from one side of Eurasia to the other in just 15 days, which is twice as fast as sea at less than half the price of air."
This BTK line will run from the bank of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan to the capital of Georgia, and then cut south to the east of Turkey before joining the Turkish rail system to Europe and beyond. The project for this railroad began in 1993 after the Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi route, which goes through Armenia, was closed.
In an effort to provide freight movement for China, Asia and Central Asia to Europe, the BTK railway will be important internationally. Experts believe it will become a critical project for the end of the Western Silk Road.
"While commissioning these projects, we are improving the comfort of our citizens and making their access easier. We are facilitating transport by increasing the freight volume within the country, therefore providing economic input," Arslan said.
Originally, the historic route would have linked the booming markets of East Asia and Europe. Now this new line will allow goods to be transported from one side of Eurasia to the other in just 15 days, which is twice as fast as sea at less than half the price of air. The type of cargo that is shipped across this railroad is expected to be high-value goods, such as: electronics, car parts, machinery, agricultural projects, high-fashion items which all need to be delivered as fast as possible.
Arslan believes the new BTK line will attach “great importance to linking the divided roads, railways and airports, which are complementary to the central corridor, to the sea ports in order to facilitate the freight movement of the countries in this area. We have been conducting many projects for this, led by the BTK Railway Project, which will complete the missing link between the European and Asian transport corridors."
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