Baku Tbilisi Kars Railway Tunnel. Photo: tdmmb.org.tr

Why Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Project Stagnated?

Baku-Tblisi-Kars railway project, 826-km-long railway connecting Turkey to Georgia and Azerbaijan, had started in 2007 with remarkable targets: 3 mn passengers and 17 mn tonnes of freight annually.

Azerbaijan, expecting to be connected to Turkey and ports in Mediterranean, had supported the project, especially when Europe rejects to fund the project. Azerbaijan had taken charge of renewal of the 721-km-long broad gauge section connecting Baku (Azerbaijan) to Akhalkalaki (Georgia). The renewal works on this section had been completed, costing $775 mn, which is funded by The State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ). Azerbaijan and Georgia even run a test-train on this section.

Turkey, expecting to be connected to Central Asia and China and reestablishing the Iron Silk Road, had taken charge of constructing 105-km-long standard gauge section connecting Kars (Turkey) to Akhalkalaki (Georgia). Turkey’s budget for the project is TL 1.38 bn (€ 400 mn) in total, 1.25 bn of which had already spent by 2014. The ground works has almost been completed,  but laying of rails has not started yet. A part of remaining amount, TL 0.9 bn is budgeted for 2015, admiting the completion to be in 2016 at the earliest.

The commissioning of the project was first announced as 2010, but was delayed to 2013, then to end of 2014, and then to 2015. Last month, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov told in PICARD conference that Baku-Tbilis-Kars railway project is not expected to be completed this year.

There are several reasons asserted about the stagnation of the project, all addressing next year for the compeletion of the project:

Funding

According to Javid Gurbanov, CEO of Azerbaijan Railways, the problem of stagnation is due to funding (see at Armenpress). He added that 60% of the project has been completed as of October 2015, and they’ll solve these little financial problems.

Contractor

According to Binali Yildirim, the senior advisor of Turkish President, former Minister of Tansportation, there is a problem with the contractor (see at Trend.AZ). Yildirim added that he’ll control the issue and eliminate the problem.

Ground

According to Minister of Customs and Trade of Turkey, (see at Cihan News Agency) , the delay is due to hard ground in tunnel construction. He said that there are differences between the preliminary analysis and the reality which caused the delay. He added that construction of tunnel is about to be completed, and works will proceed faster after that. The opening will be next year, he stated.

Political Situation in Turkey

The CEO Azerbaijan Railways, Javid Gurbanov, in his speech published in ABC.AZ, said that the unstable political situation in Turkey has led to stagnation of railway project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. He told that the laying of rails in Turkish section has not started yet. “Turkish side Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu promised to finish laying of the top layer of the railway in November 2016”, he added.

Considering all these statements, it’s understood that contractor faced with increasing costs due to hard ground which did not exist in preliminary analysis and stopped the work until this additional cost is paid. The funding of this additional cost is not solved yet, and waiting to be solved after the elections.

Photo: tdmmb.org.tr

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