Tbilisi railway bypass snags over study
26 September, 2013
Tbilisi railway bypass snags over study
The USD 350 million worth railway bypass project of the state-owned JSC Georgian Railway expected to re-route the railway track off the center of the Georgian capital to the outskirts is snagging over the feasibility study concluding that the bypass project falls far behind the expectations.
The slowdown at the Tbilisi railway bypass made Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, indignant. He visited the construction site on 15 September together with Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava and reported that construction is suspended
and the culprit is Georgia’s PM Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“I have never been as angry as I am now,” Saakashvili raged. “This crosses all boundaries. 80% of construction is actually completed, hundreds of millions are spent. I would like to say to Tbilisi people what these functionaries are going to deprive Tbilisi and each Tbilisi resident. Once this railway bypass is completed, there will be an end to traffic jams in the capital.” Saakashvili appealed to PM to get to senses for this railway bypass is the salvation for Tbilisi.
The new board of Georgian Railway that took its office early this year, counters that the project is a failure; nevertheless, the project is not laid up but only put under discussions as the recent study implemented by MC Mobility Consultants GmbH, one of the global aces, says the project will bring losses rather than profits: it cuts the productive capacity of Georgian railway down by almost one-quarter whereas more than doubles the overall expenses, spent on railway operation and infrastructure maintenance.
However, as nearly 60% (and not 80% as the President claims) of the project is already completed and USD 213 million spent, the government is reconsidering the project at the moment so as either to reshape it in a more profitable manner or cancel for good.
The Tbilisi bypass project was initiated by the ex-power to move rail traffic outside Tbilisi centre to improve the efficiency and safety of rail operations as well as overcome environmental issues and vacate about 83 hectares of land in Georgian capital for urban renewal projects. But the project was launched without feasibility research, for it does not meet any of the set goals as the recent study revealed, Dachi Tsaguria, spokesperson of Georgian Railway (GR), told Georgian Journal.
According to the incomplete rap sheet drawn by the MC Mobility, the bypass project decreases railway capacity by 24%, total operational and maintenance expenses increase by 57%, the total expense increases within the next 11 years from USD 126 million to USD 197 million plus more than envisaged investments are required. More than that, the environmental and safety risks do not diminish after re-routing the rail track to the outskirts, and the benefit GR expected to get after releasing 84 ha of territories in the capital makes only USD 30 million or 12 times less than the investment cost of construction of the project as the auditor company Ernst and Young underscored.
On the other hand, the contractor construction company the Joint Venture (JV) of JSC group of 23 bureaus of the Chinese Railway and JSC Khidmsheni failed to meet the set deadline for it had to go through with the construction works by July of 2013 but it did not. And now there are ongoing talks with the contractor company whether or not they will complete the works for which the money is already paid.
“The project is a failure in fact, although it is not suspended but put under discussions. The Authorities are trying to reshape it in a more reasonable way,” Tsaguria said.

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