Inaugurated in October 2017, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway has carried 184,000 tons of freight, while 17,500 tons of it has been sent via Turkey.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said the rate of freight carried on the BTK in overall international cargo handling was 6.8 percent last year. The train traveled on the 1,974-kilometer railway track on the Turkish side in 57.5 hours.
The BTK railway line, which links all the roads reaching the country from China and Central Asia, is of crucial importance in terms of infrastructure.
This project connects not only three countries, but also the U.K., France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and China. The 829-kilometer railway line, extending from Baku to Kars, complements a major part of the Middle Corridor with the Caspian Pass line.
Indicating that the significance of the project will be understood much better in upcoming years, Turhan noted: "This is because the trade volume between China and Europe has reached $1.5 billion per day. This trade flow is expected to continue to increase and will exceed $2 billion per day over the next 5-6 years."
Highlighting that cargo transport between Turkey and China on the BTK line started for the first time in January 2019, the minister said that four and five containers were carried from China to Köseköy in January and February, respectively, and the first block container train consisting of 26 containers that departed from China arrived in Köseköy on April 15.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Turhan said that 150 national and domestic freight cars produced by the Turkish Railway Machines Industry Inc. (TÜDEMSAŞ) have been carrying loads on the BTK railway line, adding that the issue of establishing a factory in Azerbaijan to jointly produce goods wagons to operate on the railway line has been projected.
Turhan said that there have been significant developments regarding the operation of regular block trains between the two countries and between China and Europe using the Marmaray pass via Turkey in a short period of time.
According to the minister, for the fast and economical transportation of cargo on the BTK line, special tariffs are applied to cargo carried on this line and sensitivity is shown for the operation of trains in travel periods. Within the framework of BTK agreements, passenger transport between Ankara-Tbilisi-Baku will be handled by 10 railcars that Azerbaijan Railways has procured from Stadler.
The train series, which will consist of different types of wagons with beds and offering meals, can carry 257 people. The parties will meet in Ankara on May 24-25 for the study plan and program of the train in question. It is expected that the issue will be finalized at the end of the meeting where details such as weekly working days and times and ticketing procedures will be discussed.
Turhan added that it appears that passenger density will be high as seen from questions asked about the line and that train formation will solely consist of freight cars belonging to Azerbaijan Railways that operate on a narrow, wide line.
The minister reiterated that 150 national and domestic freight cars produced by TÜDEMSAŞ, an affiliate of the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry, have been carrying loads on the BTK railway line, adding that the issue of establishing a factory in Azerbaijan to jointly produce goods wagons that will operate on the railway line has been projected.
Turhan implied that Turkey would provide support regarding the setup of factory areas where production will be carried out, adding that machinery equipment to be used in the factory will be provided by Turkey. Currently, the work continues in the project stage, he said.
Emphasizing that they have launched work so that TÜDEMSAŞ will produce freight cars to run between Turkey and Azerbaijan, Turhan said: "In this context, one EA type goods wagon was bought from our Azeri friends and brought to Turkey and the new wagon has been projected by TÜDEMSAŞ. It has been planned that two prototypes will be produced in 2019. Azerbaijan needs 600 freight cars."