Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project to advance region’s transit potential: interview with head of Azerbaijani State Railway Office

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Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project to advance region's transit potential: interview with head of Azerbaijani State Railway Office Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project to advance region’s transit potential: interview with head of Azerbaijani State Railway Office Trend Capital: What kind of work for reconstruction of railways is scheduled for this year?
Arif Askarov: The State Railway Office (SRO) of Azerbaijan, which is one of the main structures of the transport systems experiences development stage. These major works have been made possible thanks to the personal care and constant attention of National Leader Heydar Aliyev. Development and modernization of transport infrastructure, set out during Heydar Aliyev’s leadership, is being continued by President Ilham Aliyev. SRO is continuing rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Azerbaijan’s SRO is extending experience in the sphere of reconstruction of railway system, upgrade its infrastructure, increase the capacity of railway lines and speed thanks to use of modern technologies and good relations with the South Korean Railway office. The third version of the project on reconstruction of section of the Baku-Boyuk-Kasik railway and launch of new fast trains, made by Korean specialists, was presented in the Transport Ministry. Specialists were given recommendations to carry out additional researches.
Q: What works are implementing to construct the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway?
A: Works on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project, which is of great importance for us, is a historic event. Works are continued both on the territory of Georgia, and Turkey. A roadbed is being prepared and artificial structures are constructed in the Georgian section of Akhalkalaki-Kartsakhi (Georgian-Turkish border) railway. The budget pf the Marabda-Kartsakhi railway for 2009 has been approved.
The first meeting of the Supervisory Committee on the draft of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway with participation of Ministers of Transport from the three countries will be held at Turkey’s initiative in Istanbul in May. Implementation of an international project on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line and construction of a tunnel in the Bosphorus strait, combining of the Trans-European and the Trans-Asian Railway networks, in addition to the output of goods and passengers in Europe and Asia directly through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey will contribute to increasing region’s transit capacity, accelerate the process of European integration, greater cooperation within the European Neighborhood Policy, strengthening of state independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and expansion of external economic relations.
Implementation of the project is of great importance from economic efficiency, speed and timeliness, security and reliability. Involvement of goods of European and Asian countries to the railway will increase both volumes and intermodal container transport.
Q: How much cargo and passengers SRO is planning to transfer this year, and what are the results from the first quarter?
A: In the first quarter of 2009, 4.7 million tons of cargo was transported via the railway. Roads, parks, cars and locomotives have been repaired. Some 4.7 kilometers of road was repaired completely, 11.3 miles – partially, an electric locomotive and diesel locomotive were upgraded. 255 trucks and 13 passenger cars, 808 trucks and 68 passenger cars were repaired. The 88-meter-second shift rail metal bridge over the Araz River was put into operation through funds of the Public budget in Saatli region.
Q: What kind of work involves the program prepared by the State Railway Office of Azerbaijan and when it will be approval?
A: Under the decree of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, a ‘Project of state program to develop the State Railway Office of Azerbaijan in 2009-2013″ was designed. The program includes measures to develop short-term development of SRO. The program envisages restoring of state park cars and locomotives, capital repair of roads, electricity, signal systems, communications and other facilities, transition from DC to change, putting into operation of high-speed passenger trains, upgrading the technological capabilities. Efficient transport policy, to develop border infrastructure, and improve customs legislation and to apply modern technology.
Q: What work has been done to implement North-South railway project? When a joint venture will be launched as a part of the project? When construction of the Iranian section is expected to begin?
A: Azerbaijan seats at the center of transit due to its geographical location. Therefore Azerbaijan State Railway Office, which is part of the transport sector, is closely involved in the implementation of international and regional transport corridors. There have been several important steps in the accession of Azerbaijan to the international transport corridor North-South. As a result of a hard work, the parliament approved a bill on accession of Azerbaijan to the Agreement on international transport corridor North-South which was signed by President Ilham Aliyev on September 10, 2005. The work that got underway since then is still continuing.
The Azerbaijan State Railway Office, Russian Railways and the Iranian Railways working group on implementation of North-South discussed a number of important issues, including business plan for the construction of the railway line Rasht – Astara (Iran) – Astara (Azerbaijan), which is part of corridor North-South at a trilateral meeting of working groups in St. Petersburg on March 11-13.
Q: The State Railway Office increases routes of trains both within and outside the country. What changes are expected in this regard?
A: Since the late 1990’s, the Azerbaijan State Railway Office embarked on a new path of its development. The passenger sector went through a full update. Thanks to the invaluable contribution of the national leader Heydar Aliyev and his negotiations with the heads of the neighboring countries, the relations of the Azerbaijan State Railway Office are expanding at the moment. Since that time, passenger trains began to move in different cities of Russia and Iran. Currently, Azerbaijan carries out the movement of nine international passenger trains, including the Baku-Moscow, Baku, Kiev, Baku, Tyumen, Rostov-Baku, Baku, Kiev, Baku, Makhachkala, Nakhchivan, Tabriz, Baku, Tbilisi and Baku – St. Petersburg.

Taking into account the numerous requests of our compatriots living in different cities of Russia Simferopol, Lviv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odessa cars have been hooked on to the passenger train Baku-Kiev and Ufa, Samara, Chelyabinsk, Saratov, Novosibirsk, Russia, Izhevsk and Kazan trailers have joined stock of the Baku-Tyumen. On 31 May, one more change will be made to the schedule of trains in connection with the shift of passenger trains in the summer season. A car which will move until Saransk will be hooked on to Baku-Tyumen passenger train. Currently, 11 passenger trains serve passengers on domestic routes.
Q: Azerbaijan State Railway Office has held meeting with South Korean DAEWOO and HYUNDAI on purchase of locomotives from these companies. How many locomotives will be purchased and and at what price?
A: Since the late 20th century Azerbaijan State Railway Office has maintained closer ties with foreign colleagues. So far, there have been several bilateral and multilateral meetings and several projects have been discussed. Under the memorandum signed by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev during the official visit to South Korea in 2007 and many other projects to be implemented in Azerbaijan provides for reconstruction, development of transport system and upgrading railway infrastructure. During this period Azerbaijani and the South Korean railway men have held a few bilateral meetings and exchange of views and experiences.
During the visit, Azerbaijan State Railway Office specialists visited South Korean DAEWOO, HYUNDAI, POSCO and ROTEM plants and got familiar with the current state of the railways, the construction of locomotives and cars and repair of high-speed trains. Once the Draft State Program on Development of Azerbaijan State Railway Office for 2009-2013 will be legally approved, the issue of purchase of locomotives from South Korea can be discussed./Trend/