Baku-Tblisi-Kars railway was announced to be commissioned at 2017 summer.
However, it’s now heard that opening may delay. Furthermore, regular commercial traffic will need completion of infrastructure tests, terminal at Akhalkalaki and customs system.
This railway will not only connect Azerbaijan to Mediterrean ports, but is also planned to get some share from China/Central Asia-Europe traffic. On the other hand, Turkey is not alone on above targets. Delays on Baku-Tblisi-Kars project are encouraging rival projects.
Here are the rival projects which may get share from the market of Baku-Tblisi-Kars:
Russia is the most critical transit country for China-Europe traffic. This route recently hosted the China-UK train. Russia had proceeded a lot on this route and increased the speed over 900 km/day. Thus, Russia is still the main solution for China-Europe traffic despite all political tension with Europe.
Russia also keeps contact with Caucasian countries for a new freight corridor connecting Russia to south via Iran. Although Georgia is involved in Baku-Tblisi-Kars project, they are working on alternative connections via Poti. The container train from China to Europe via Poti Port was one of the outcomes. Having political tension with Russia, Ukrain expects a lot from this line. China-Europe loads may support Viking Train which is crossing all over Ukrain.
This route will give chance Russia and Azerbaijan to reach to southern seas. This is a great opportunity for Iran to increase its transit traffic. The 172-km-long railway between Rasht and Astara is planned between Iran and Azerbaijan. A MoU had been inked last year. Russia is also supporting this project.
A new rail connection to Turkmenistan and Kazakhistan had been opened a few years ago. And first China train arrived Iran last year. The aggressive politics about transit traffic of Iran Government may attract some of Central Asia loads to Iran ports.
Cover Photo: Maximilian Dorrbecker