ANKARA: New railway to better connect Turkey and Nakhchivan

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
May 8 2010

New railway to better connect Turkey and Nakhchivan

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway connecting Azerbaijan’s capital
city of Baku to the eastern Turkish city of Kars, which is currently
under construction, will be joined by another new railroad to be built
between Azerbaijan and Turkey to lift the autonomous Nakhchivan region
out of isolation, an Azerbaijani official has said.

Speaking to the local ANS TV station, Sadraddin Mammadov, head of the
Azerbaijani Ministry of Transportation’s department of transport
policy and economy, noted that the railway is set to pass through
IÄ?dır and will connect Kars and Nakhchivan. Preparations for the
construction of the necessary infrastructure have already begun, he

According to Mammadov, the tender to select the company that will
conduct the geological survey of the area the railroad will pass
through has already been announced. The new railroad is planned to be
the continuation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and will be the only
land connection between mainland Azerbaijan and landlocked Nakhchivan.

Territories linking Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan became part of Armenia
under Soviet leadership in the early 1920s, thus separating the
autonomous region from mainland Azerbaijan. The only railroad and
highway that connect these two regions were shut down after Azerbaijan
and Armenia fought over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Since
then, air travel has been the only transportation link between
Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan.

The ministry official also said the expected railroad link between
Azerbaijan and Turkey will turn Nakhchivan into a huge transport hub.
`Following the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, this
railroad will significantly increase the connection between Baku and
Nakhchivan,’ Mammadov said.

He also spoke about the ongoing work on the BTK line, noting that
construction is under way in both Georgia and Turkey.

A total of 105 kilometers were planned to be built as part of the BTK
project. Of these, 76 kilometers will be within Turkey while the
remaining 29 kilometers will lie between the Turkish border and the
city of Akhalkalaki in Georgia. Georgia also plans to retrofit the
rail link between Akhalkalaki and Tbilisi.

Ankara hosted Parliamentary Chairman of Nakhchivan Vasif Talıbov last
week to discuss a range of bilateral issues. Observers claim
discussions also included the recently announced railroad.

The BTK railway is expected to transport 1.5 million passengers and 3
million tons of freight per year in its initial operation. Forecasts
predict that by 2034, it will transport 3 million people and more than
16 million tons of goods per year. The total cost of the project is
estimated at $500 million. Georgia will contribute $200 million, which
it will receive from Azerbaijan in the form of a loan. The remaining
cost will be covered by Turkey.

The ministry official said the BTK will be ready by mid-2011 and the
Nakhchivan-IÄ?dır-Kars railway soon after that. Turkey is connected to
Nakhchivan by a short 11-kilometer-long border, a lifeline sustaining
trade that keeps Nakhchivan’s economy alive. Turkey’s eastern
provinces also greatly benefit from trade with Nakhchivan.

08 May 2010, Saturday

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