Baku-Tbilisi-Kars New Railway

The talks and discussions on building a new railway connection between Kars and Akhalkalaki started in 1993. The historical Declaration on “Baku-Tbilisi Kars new railway connection” project between the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Turkey was signed on 25th May 2005 in Baku by the Presidents of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and Turkey Ahmet Necdet Sezer.

On November 21, 2007, in Marabda (southern Georgia), the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey inaugurated the construction of a new railroad between Kars and Baku, via Tbilisi. This new railroad is supposed to increase the transportation capacity in South Caucasus and to diversify the goods that are transported through these three countries. Indeed, after the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) gas pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad, also known as the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku railroad, should be another step in the positioning of South Caucasus, and especially of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, as a major transit corridor between Europe and Asia.

Linking Baku in Azerbaijan with Kars in eastern Turkey via Tbilisi in Georgia, the railway is scheduled to be completed by 2015 and will transport goods (especially oil) and passengers. There are plans to extend the railway corridor to Europe under the Marmaris project once a tunnel under the Istanbul strait becomes operational around 2013. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad project envisages construction of a 29-kilometer segment in Georgia and a 76-kilometer segment in Turkey. Moreover, 160 km section of Akhalkalaki-Marabda-Tbilisi railway will be also reconstructed to improve the carrying capacity to 15 mln. tons of cargo per year. It is planned to build in Akhalkalaki station a special place for transition of trains from the track gauges existing in Georgia and also in other post-soviet countries (1520 mm) to the European one (1435 mm). The project is estimated at $422mln and taking into consideration the accompanying infrastructure its cost will comprise $600mln.

The implementation of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars new railway connection line project and meantime, construction of under Bosporus railway under the Marmara project that connect the Trans-European and Trans-Asian railway networks along the construction of the new Sea Trade Port at Alat settlement (Azerbaijan) in line with the advanced technologies will create the fast, safe and shortest railway connection to transport the goods from Asia to Europe and vice versa.

This railway line is short, but the importance of the emerging transcontinental corridor shall lie in the significant growth of the competitiveness of the East-West international transport corridor and transit capacity of countries in a region, but even more in creating an integrated freight railway network between Europe and Asia.