The opening ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway took place in Baku
The opening ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (BTK) was held on 30 October in Baku.
Construction of the railway lasted for more than 10 years, with the opening ceremony being repeatedly postponed for various reasons. Finally the leaders from four states, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, officially gave the ‘green light’ for the first train today which will go from Baku to Kars via Tbilisi. Government representatives from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan also attended the ceremony.
“The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is the shortest and most reliable way between Europe and Asia. In the beginning five million tons of cargo will be transported via the BTK, and 17 million tons thereafter. The BTK is turning Eurasia into an important part of the transport map. The railway will serve to develop tourism, stability and security, increase the volume of mutual investment, and strengthen the geopolitical significance of our countries.”
In his welcoming speech, the Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev added:
“Some didn’t believe the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project would be successfully completed. Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia have successfully completed the project.”
The Georgian Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, noted the importance of the transport corridor for communication between the countries of Europe and Asia.
“The success of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route is connected to growing economic ties with China. The freight train leaving today will reach its destination within eight days of leaving China,” Kvirikashvili said.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported this assessment:
“We are connecting Europe to the ports of Aktau and Turkmenbashi in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. BTK will transport six million tons of cargo and one million passengers. By 2030, these figures will reach 17 million tons of cargo, and three million passengers,” said Erdogan.
The Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Bakytzhan Sagintauev while speaking at the event, said that the BTK will shorten the duration of transportation from Asia to Europe:
“More than 10 billion dollars have been invested in the project, which will further reduce the transit time between Asia and Europe.”
Expert economist and executive secretary of the “REAL” opposition movement Natik Jafarli, recognizing the important political significance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, expressed doubts about its economic feasibility:
“Azerbaijan, the primary donor for this project, spent about one billion dollars for its realization. In the early years, profits from this railway are unlikely to exceed 20-30 million dollars. In addition, there are significant natural obstacles to overcome on the road “from Beijing to London”; the ferry across the Caspian Sea, and changing the wheelbase before crossing through turkey to Europe, as it’s well known that the standards of Russian railways differ from those of Europe. All of this wastes time. It will be a miracle if the project starts to pay off in 20-30 years,” believes Jafarli.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project began in 2008, and has been built in accordance with the Azerbaijani-Georgian-Turkish interstate agreement. A railway line from the Akhalkalaki station in Georgia to the railway station in Kars was restored as part of the project. The total length of the BTK route is 826 kilometers.