Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Officially Opened

Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Officially Opened

On October 30, the opening ceremony of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway took place in the town of Alyat, 70 km southern from Baku. The 826-kilometer long railroad will establish a freight and passenger link between the three countries, as well as will serve for transporting passengers and goods from China to Europe. On this stage, the railroad will transport 1 million passengers and about 6 million tons of freight annually. In the future, the capacity will grow.

The ceremony was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, as well as prime ministers of Georgia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said the railway is the “shortest and most reliable link between Asia and Europe.” Georgian PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili expressed confidence that the new railway will drastically change the current economic reality. “It will connect not only our economies but also our citizens, improve and boost their welfare,” Kvirikashvili said. In a statement announced on October 30, European Union called the opening of the railway “a major step in transport interconnections linking the European Union, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia.”

Armenia had criticized the project, pointing out that it aims to isolate the country. The Armenian officials had proposed to use already existing Tbilisi-Gyumri-Kars railroad, instead of building the new Akhalqalaqi-Kars line. The initiative, however, was blocked.

The project of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was announced in 2007. Its launch has been postponed several times. The construction costs which surpassed $1 billion were covered from Azerbaijan's state oil fund.



Forbes wrote about this major event in its article "How Azerbaijan, Georgia, And Turkey Subverted Russia And Isolated Armenia With New Railway": "The BTK Railway was the missing link of the much-heralded middle corridor of the New Silk Road, which is a multimodal trade route that goes from China to Europe via Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. With two overland Silk Road routes already in operation — one going north from China to Russia before turning west to Europe and another going east-west across China and Kazakhstan — this more southernly route is an essential ingredient to turn this series of emerging trans-Eurasian economic corridors into a full-fledged network.

“Once the railroad is operational, Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan will benefit from a more efficient transit route and other users will profit from a shorter and safer transit route," said Mahir Humbatov, an Azerbaijani researcher who has co-authored two books on the BTK rail line. "Via the BTK, goods will be able to reach Europe heading from South Korea, China, and India within 15 days at most.”

Humbatov posits that the BTK rail line will provide an expedient way for regional producers to get their products to Europe, Iran, Russia, and Central Asia, helping to turn it into the crossroads that its geographic position gives it the potential to become.

What is especially appealing about the corridor that the BTK runs along is that it completely bypasses Russia and, by extension, their reactionary sanctions against the import and transit of many EU goods."