Turkey opens rail link for new Silk Road

Turkey opens rail link for new Silk Road

Turkey opens rail link for new Silk Road

The new link is the shortest rail route between Asia and Europe.

The leaders of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia launched an 826-km rail link connecting the three countries on Monday, establishing a freight and passenger link between Europe and China that bypasses Russian Federation. It involved upgrading infrastructure in Azerbaijan and Georgia, rehabilitating 153 km of unused 1 520 mm gauge line from Marabda to a break-of-gauge facility at Akhalkalaki, and building 110 km of 1 435 mm gauge line to Kars via a 4·4 km tunnel under the Georgia-Turkey border at Kartsakhi.

Speaking at a news conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev following the 6th Turkey-Azerbaijan High-Level Strategic Council meeting in capital Baku, Erdogan said: "The solidarity between Turkey and Azerbaijan in political, military, economic, cultural areas continues to get stronger".

Erdogan said the railway line would not only serve passengers but also provide freight service that would lead to an economic boost.

The presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan and the prime ministers of Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan attended a ceremony at the Port of Baku on October 30 to dispatch an inaugural freight train on the Baku - Tbilisi - Kars corridor.

Its total cost surpassed $1 billion, with the bulk of the financing coming from Azerbaijan's state oil fund.

"Several European countries have expressed an interest in this project and Azerbaijan is in talks with them", Aliyev said, adding Kazakhstan and other countries in Central Asia were interested in transporting their goods via the BTK.

The project, which included 105 kilometers of new track, was launched in 2007. At the time, 2010 was set as the completion date, but it has been delayed for many times since then with deadlines moving to 2012, then to 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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