Turkey has been signing off on strategically important historical projects one after another on a regional and global scale for the last 10 years. Due to the fact that Eurasia is the new center of attraction for global economy-politics and that global production and demand is now concentrated on this geographical area, another project that will put Turkey forward as a "playmaker" country in its region has found life.
During these highly sentimental days where we are celebrating the 94th anniversary of the Republic and Kars'liberation from the enemy invasion, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway line's official coming into service means many opportunities for wealth to the neighboring countries. The realization of the BTK within China's One Belt One Road Initiative that aims for a $21 trillion economic value creation also means that Turkey is the first country that took an initiative in this global project.
Turkey also offers the Central Asian Turkish Republics the possibility of opening up toward the Middle East, Gulf, and North Africa from the ports of Mersin, İskenderun and Antalya. The 829 kilometer (515 miles) BTK Railway, whose construction began in 2008, was opened to the public with a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in addition to the leaders of the four countries.
In the beginning, the railway will have the capacity to carry 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of load. It is planned that it will transport 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of load by the end of 2034. However, the main significance of the railway stems from the fact that it leads the way for the nearly 240 million tons of load -currently transported from China to Europe still via sea, air, and the North line that goes through Russia - to be shifted toward the middle channel, which is now continuous with the BTK. The new iron Silk Road from China to London includes the BTK, which allows a much cheaper means of transportation compared to the sea and airway, and will be 7,000 kilometers shorter than the North line that goes through Russia.
When sea transport is included in the southern and northern corridors, it takes approximately 45 to 62 days for the transport of cargoes from China to the countries of the European Union (England, Germany, France, et cetera). If the same cargo is sent through the middle corridor, it will reach the EU countries in 12 to 15 days, making the journey at least 33 to 47 days faster to Europe. This will provide a great advantage in terms of competition. The railway will enable uninterrupted travel from Asia to the furthest point of Europe. The project connects England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and China with railroads. At this point, the most critical issue that will enhance the effect of the BTK Railway is that Turkey has to strengthen its speed train network between Kars, Trabzon, Konya, Antalya, Mersin and İskenderun. This means an exponential increase in trade within the region for goods and services such as tourism for Turkey.
Project will bring peace, security, stability, and prosperity
President Erdoğan, who followed the BTK Railway project since 2008 with great determination, said a very important step has been taken for the future of Turkey and the countries of the region, and that one of the rings of the new Silk Road project, which was started with the aim to link Asia, Europe, and Africa, was put into service. President Erdoğan emphasized that the megaprojects and bridges Turkey completes one after another boost the effectiveness and attractiveness of the BTK Railway project.
The project connects not only three countries via Azerbaijan's Alat port but also all the Central Asian Republics to the Western transportation routes. Similarly, it links Turkmenistan through the Turkmenbashi port and Kazakhstan via the Aktau port to Europe and will substantially diminish the costs of freight shipment. President Erdoğan indicated that currently the amount of cargo transported to Europe through China is over 240 million tons, and even if only 10 percent of this cargo is transported through the middle corridor that passes from Turkey and regions' countries, 24 million tons of extra cargo will be shipped.
He highlighted that the project will contribute not only with its economic aspects but also in terms of politics, and it will bring peace, security, and stability, and contribute to social welfare, as well as advancing the humane development of the country with information mobility in addition to the cargo and human mobility.
Prime Minister Yıldırım, who closely monitored the project during the time when he was the minister of Transport and Communication, said the project, that is the product of a joint effort of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, not only reflects the cooperation between the countries but also constitutes a major part of the historical Silk Road that begins in China and reaches Europe through Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. Yıldırım emphasized that the BTK Railway project that is on the main route of the Middle Corridor of the One Belt One Road Initiative also has a role to unite the nations in Eurasia.
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