The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway began service on Oct. 30 with its first official run across Azerbaijan, Georgia and the east of Turkey, greatly facilitating regional trade as part of China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, according to the Azerbaijani Embassy in Seoul.
The 846-kilometer project -- part and parcel of the Trans-Asian Railway Network, also known as the “Iron Silk Road” -- is expected to halve the time it takes to move goods from China to Turkey. It is a crucial part of the OBOR initiative designed to integrate Asian and European economies and reshape the order of global trade.
The BTK line will initially carry 1 million passengers and 5 million tons of cargo a year, and increase cargo to 50 million tons when a parallel track finishes construction in the near future.
“The BTK line will make the region an important center on the new Silk Road, which begins from Russia’s Far East and ends in Western Europe,” said the diplomatic mission in a press release. “Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan will benefit from a more efficient transit route and other users will profit from a shorter and safer transit route. Via the route, goods will reach Europe from South Korea, China and India within 15 to 20 days.”
A map shows the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. (Wikipedia)
The presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey, prime ministers of Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and other high-level officials participated in the commencement ceremony at the Port of Baku on Oct. 30 to dispatch an inaugural freight train on the corridor.
Seventy-nine kilometers of the railway passes through Turkey, 246 kilometers through Georgia and 504 kilometers through Azerbaijan. The scheme has been completely financed by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Analysts say the project’s key objective is to improve economic relations between the three countries and attract foreign direct investment across Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, some pundits speculate the project will further marginalize Armenia in the geopolitically volatile region of the South Caucasus.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org