The first train of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway, a key link in the modern Silk Road Railway that aims to carry goods between Beijing and London, is set to depart today from the Azeri capital of Baku with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in attendance along with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Initially, the railway is expected to carry nearly 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of freight annually before unlocking a freight transportation potential of up to 50 million tons per year.
President Erdoğan is set to visit Azerbaijan on Oct. 30-31 to attend the opening ceremony of the first official train service of the BTK railway in a significant visit to Baku, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
As one of the land routes in the scope of China's One Belt One Road initiative passes through Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the railway projects being launched in the scope of the "Iron Silk Road" have gained significance as they are connecting the regions. In this context, the BTK railway project was initiated in 2005 and construction began in 2007.
Seventy-nine kilometers (49 miles) of the BTK railway passes through Turkey, 246 kilometers through Georgia and 504 kilometers through Azerbaijan.
The transportation from Turkey to Georgia is provided via a border tunnel within the scope of the project. Some 2,375 meters of tunnel are within Turkey's border, while 2,070 meters are located on the side of Georgia.
Thanks to the railway network linking the Middle East to Europe via the Marmaray, transportation between Turkey and Asia, the Caucasus and European countries will be easier. With the BTK railway, the potential for international transport will reach 6.5 million tons per year.
Along with the said project, a significant portion of the cargo that can be transported from Asia to Europe, and from Europe to Asia, will remain in Turkey with the Marmaray and the construction of other railway projects supporting these projects. Thus, Turkey will be able to achieve billions of dollars in revenue in the long run.
Some 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo will be transported with the activation of the line, which will lead to the emergence of a potential for international transport, and reach 50 million tons per year through the BTK railway between Turkey and Asia, and the Caucasus and European countries.
The project, which will bring vitality to the region both in terms of employment and trade, is the third largest project realized by all three countries after the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum projects in the energy sector.
During the visit, President Erdoğan will also attend the 6th Turkey-Azerbaijan High-Level Strategic Council meeting on Oct. 31. The presidents of the two countries are expected to discuss bilateral relations, regional and international developments in the meeting and various agreements on cooperation will be signed between the countries. Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan previously said the BTK railway project, also called "Iron Silk Road," is of great importance for Turkey.
Arslan said a train departing from London will be able to go all the way to Beijing, stressing that the Iron Silk Road will add a very serious added value to the countries and regions in the route.
Arslan said that the Silk Road Railway would add significant value to countries hosting the line and revive the regional economy. It will also facilitate the delivery of goods to target markets.
"With the BTK link, around 50 million tons of international freight potential will be unlocked," the minister noted, adding that the project will also benefit Turkish provinces listed among the centers of attraction, including Kars, Ardahan, Iğdır, Ağrı, Erzurum, Erzincan, Gümüşhane and Bayburt. The new railway corridor, he said, will enable easier transportation between Turkey and Asia as well as the Caucasus and European countries.
He underlined that the line will make the region an important center on the new Silk Road, which begins in Beijing and ends in London.
"Transportation of goods manufactured and produced in China as well as raw materials will be facilitated via an uninterrupted line of railways," Arslan said.
"Investors who want to set up logistics centers in Eastern Anatolia and carry goods from the region to other areas are looking forward to the project," he added.
The BTK railway project aims to integrate the region with the international community by providing an uninterrupted corridor from China to London.
Transportation between China and Europe will take approximately 15 days with the completion of the Middle Corridor. The BTK railway project will be one of the main connectors in terms of transportation projects which also include the EU-led Transport Europe-Caucasus-Asia Corridor (TRACECA) and the One Belt One Road Middle Corridor.
The project is expected to strengthen Turkey's economic and political ties with countries in Eurasia as it will provide an easy, less-expensive option for transportation, also enhancing Turkey's role as a hub in the Middle Corridor.