ANKARA: Work Begins On Turkish Part Of ‘Iron Silk Road’


Turkish Daily News
July 21 2008

The presidents of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan are set to participate
in the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday of a strategic railway line
linking the Turkish city of Kars to Central Asia, reported the Anatolia
news agency.

Turkey’s Abdullah Gul, Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Georgia’s Mikhail
Saakashvili will push the button in the eastern Anatolian province
of Kars for the construction of the 76-kilometer-long Turkish part
of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, said Anatolia citing sources from
the Transportation Ministry.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Georgian part was held in November
2007, again with the participation of the three countries’ leaders. The
project will directly link Turkey with Central Asian countries, which
are at the center of oil and natural gas reserves and when realized,
a train setting off from London will be able to reach China. Among 14
companies, Celikler-Ozgun Construction Group was awarded the contract
for the construction of the Turkish part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars
railway. It offered a price of YTL 290 million. The entire project
is expected to be complete in 2010.

Parallel to the Marmaray Project to link the European and Asian
halves of Istanbul by an undersea rail tunnel across the Bosporus,
the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project will pave the way for transfer of
freight from Europe to China, so that the freight transfer between
Europe and Central Asia will shift to the railways.

Annually 30 million tons of freight is expected to be carried in the
medium term through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway knows as the Iron
Silk Road. Besides the strategic significance of the project, the
railway will be an important source of income for Turkey considering
the fact that the Turkish State Railways, or TCDD, annually carries
19.5 million tons of freight.

European Union candidate Turkey sees such infrastructure projects as
boosting its role as a bridge for trade and energy between the East
and the West.

Armenia opposes the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project bypassing its
territory. Both Yerevan and the Armenian diaspora in the United States
were up in arms, arguing that there is already a rail route passing
through Armenia that could be used to build a trans-Caucasus railroad.