BTK Railway Steps Up
30 May, 2013
BTK Railway Steps Up

Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, projected to be the shortest route between Europe and China will be constructed at more rapid rate than before and it will be completed without impediments. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, sent this message at Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkey business forum held in Gabala, Azerbaijan on May 25, 2013.

Importance of joint economic and business projects were discussed by around three hundred businessmen from the participant countries. During bi-lateral meeting with his peers Kvirkashvili paid a special
attention on some joint projects including opening of ferry service between Poti port and Samsun, Turkey Port. Among of the priority projects were Baku-Tbilisi-Batumi-Trabzon Road Infrastructure project. The Ministers agreed on setting up a consortium for project implementation and attracting of investments. A special accent fell on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway.
“The last is of strategic importance and it will be constructed at a more rapid rates then it was before,” Kvirikashvili said. According to him, BTK is one of the most important projects to Georgia and Georgian government finds necessary to go ahead with the project. There were problems in reference to coordinates of the project but Georgian parliament had already made them certain. Construction works are underway and works on the tunnel connecting Georgia to Turkey will be restored in coming days.
Georgian minister’s message clarified Georgia’s position [to its project partners of Azerbaijan and Turkey] in conjunction with the BTK questioned by Georgian Primer Bidzina Ivanishvili as soon as he took over his office term in past October after his Georgian Dream political coalition won the parliamentary elections and power shifted. He was concerned that BTK poises threats to commercial benefits of the already active trunk railway of Georgia, connecting Caspian Sea with the Black Sea as well as to Georgian ports that may lose cargos after BTK becomes operational and will insure direct rail connection from Caspian Sea to Europe after undersea-bed railway tunnel in Bosporus strait is through. BTK will compete the 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 and to construct this railway route Georgia took a USD 250 million worth preferential loan from Azerbaijan in 2007 that enhanced to USD 775 by 2012 eventually. The BTK split opinions among Georgian transit and economic sector pundits at the very outset. One part shared Ivanishvili’s concern that Georgian ports and trunk railway might be at loss, another part believes the more routes bring the more profit to any country and BTK will only bring additional profit for existing Georgian railway cannot handle with the increased cargo turnover that can potentially come from Middle Asia and China. But both sides agree that the BTK is of bigger strategic importance to Azerbaijan and Turkey [these two historical allies get a direct railway connection bypassing their mutual political opponent Armenia] rather than to Georgia and the more than doubled loan issue must be scrutinized properly.
“Of course the BTK should be completed but we know no details [provided by government] what was revised in the project and how,” Soso Archvadze, an economic analyst, told Georgian Journal. “The one thing is obvious that BTK is handier to partner countries and we should know why the loan increased so much, things should be more transparent.”

 

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