Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway to Meet Deadlines
07 March, 2013
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway to Meet Deadlines
The tri-lateral Ministerial on Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway (BTK) project held on March 1, 2013 in Istanbul agreed on completion of the ongoing construction railway project in scheduled time. The meeting minutes were signed by the ministers of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey which stresses particular aspects of the project including construction, infrastructure, finance, etc. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Binali Yldimir, Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications and Ziya Mammadov, Minister of Transport of Azerbaijan, endorsed
the agreement.
The budget of BTK railway route, believed to be the shortest route between Europe and China, compared with other existing routes, was defined by USD 175 million in 2013. In total, the budget for the Georgian section will amount from the initially agreed USD 250 million to USD 775 million. Currently, one third of the work has been completed. The construction is conducted by Marabda-Kartsakhi Railway LTD where the management changes took place at the beginning of 2013.
Ministers discussed the importance of BTK Railway and stressed the trade, economic, political and strategic characteristics of the project. It was noted that project is unique because it has positive effects not only on the transport corridor but on the social and economic situation of the local people living near the railway.
In addition, the problems that hindered completion of construction on schedule were identified. It was also stressed that the Governments of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan realize the importance of BTK project and will support the completion of the project on schedule.
Now Georgian government hushed down its concerns that BTK poises threats to commercial benefits of Georgia trumpeted by Bidzina Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia, shortly after he took his office on October 24, 2013. Before his visit to Azerbaijan by end-December of 2012 Ivanishvili worried that after BTK railway becomes operational the already active trunk railway of Georgia, connecting Caspian Sea with the Black Sea as well as Georgian ports may lose cargos as the BTK railway will insure direct rail connection from Caspian sea to Europe after undersea-bed railway tunnel in Bosporus strait will be through. BTK will complete sea transportation at Georgian ports handling cargos at the similar direction historically. The project is believed to become operational by end of 2013. The BTK aims to transport cargos from Central Asia and China to Europe
Georgian economic analysts worry that taking around USD 770 million of preferential loan from Azerbaijan to construct Georgian section of the BTK project that cuts much bigger ice with Azerbaijan and Turkey, is not reasonable and the loan terms should be revised. Baku port supposed to have increased cargo turnover on European direction loses nothing unlike Georgian ports that handle the EU-destination cargos that enter Baku port at the moment. Azerbaijan and Turkey, two strategic partners, get direct rail connection bypassing their mutual rival Armenia. In addition, by developing railway infrastructure in the underdeveloped part of Turkey, the country gets both social and economic benefits while transit potential of Georgian railway and ports face problems.
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