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Russia wants active involvement in the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, May 10
The heads of Russian, Turkish and Azerbaijani railway companies have signed a trilateral memorandum in Ankara. The memorandum provides for cooperation to ensure regular rail traffic along the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route, including the establishment of economically sound tariffs and the attraction of a new cargo base The Russian Railways has released an official press release on the signing of the memorandum with a title "Russian railway track may be extended to Turkey."

The press release also covers the topic of adding another rail track to Akhalkalaki-Karsi section, the parties will consider the possibility of implementing a project to build a second railway track with a gauge of 1,520 mm in the Akhalkalaki (Georgia) - Kars section, 76 km long. Must be noted, 1520 mm laning is the Soviet standard, whereas the highway that has already built from Akhalkalaki to Kars is in accordance to European standard (1435 mm). According to Russian Railway, the construction of the Terminal Logistics Center in Kars is also discussed.

"The signed memorandum explains the possibility of development of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars line. This highway is now being built under the guidance of Azeri Railways. This means that Turkey joins the unified technological space of the former Soviet Union countries, Finland, Bulgaria and Iran, which are closely cooperating with each other, "said Oleg Belozyorov,, General Director of Russian Railways. According to him, the cargo on Baku-Tbilisi-Kars mines may be from South Korea, China and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition, the head of the Russian Railways visited Baku yesterday, where he met Ilham Aliyev, the president of the country. Discussions focused on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars municipality issue. One more memorandum was signed between Baku and Russia and Azerbaijan railway companies, which envisages cooperation in the railway sector.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is built on the basis of the Azerbaijani-Georgian-Turkish interstate agreement. The project started in 2008. The opening ceremony of the freight traffic on the BTK was held on October 30, 2017. The total length of the BTK is 829 kilometers. According to the engineering decision of the project, the railway line connecting station in the territory of Georgia is in Akhalkalaki. The estimated capacity of the corridor is one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year. In the future, the capacity of the transport corridor can be increased to three million passengers and 20 million tons of cargo annually.

As for the meeting in Ankara where the heads of the Russian, Turkish and Azerbaijani railway companies signed a Memorandum, the Prime Minister said that the meeting was a different According to the agreement between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan fourth party can join the deal only with the consent of all three countries.

Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze made a comment about the meeting:"This is a strategic project for us and there is an agreement signed between the three countries where specifically defined principles in which this project is implemented. Most of the works are over and we will end the project with the engineering decision that exists. According to this this decision, the connecting station is in the territory of Georgia in Akhalkalaki. It seems that the meeting that was held in Ankara is a completely different meeting - the agreement signed between the three countries states, other players can join only in case of consent of all countries.”

Premier expressed his certainty about connecting station: “There will be a connecting station in the territory of Georgia connecting the European Standard Railway with our standard railway and this will happen in Akhalkalaki, no other version can be discussed,” stated Bakhtadze.