ASTANA – The 826-km Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway route launched operations Oct. 30 with an opening ceremony at the Baku International Sea Trade Port in Baku, Azerbaijan, according to a Kazakh Prime Minister’s office press release.
The route has a current annual capacity of 1 million passengers and 5 million tonnes of freight with plans to increase capacity to 3 million passengers and 17 million tonnes of freight.
The BTK railway route is part of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Corridor, which connects the railway networks of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. It starts at the shore of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, runs through Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi and through the eastern part of Turkey before merging with the Turkish and European railway systems.
The new line will open new routes to the Black and Mediterranean Seas for Kazakhstan, according to the press release.
The new railway route is expected to help Kazakhstan transport through its territory up to two million containers per year by 2020.
Kazakhstan’s locomotives produced by Lokomotiv Kurastyru Zauyty and Electric Locomotive Zauyty will be used in the sections of the new BTK railway corridor. Ten locomotives are ready for operation, and by 2020 Kazakhstan will supply 40 cargo electric locomotives to Azerbaijan.
The route is expected to reduce transit times between China and Europe to around 15 days, which is more than twice as fast as the sea route at less than half the price of air transportation.
Cargo and passenger trains will be able to depart from China, enter Kazakhstan at the Khorgos gateway, be taken across the Caspian Sea by ferry to the Port of Baku and then be loaded directly onto the BTK and head to Europe.
In addition to the host, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, the opening ceremony was attended by Kazakh Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulla Aripov, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Minister of Transport of Tajikistan Khudoyor Khudoyorzoda and Turkmenistan’s Minister of Railway Transport Deryaguly Bashimov.
“Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is part of a big Silk Road and it’s important that we have implemented this project using our own funds,” said Erdogan, according to Reuters.com