First Freight Train on Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Departs Port of Baku

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Oct. 30, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- On Monday, the grand inauguration ceremony of the key transport project linking Europe and Asia - the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway - was held at the new Port of Baku in Alat, Azerbaijan. The 846-km-long railway strategically connects Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey and will play a pivotal role in the Middle Corridor as part of the greater One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. While most parts of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway were modernized, a 109-km-long segment running from Georgia (30 km) into Turkey (79 km) was built. The newly inaugurated railway offers new opportunities for the transshipment of cargo from China and the Far East to the Mediterranean region and Europe over a shorter, faster land route (14-18 days).

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accompanied by their first ladies, Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Georgia's Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Uzbekistan's Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov, the Ministers of Transport of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as well as other high-level dignitaries.

"The BTK is the shortest and most reliable route connecting Europe with Asia," stated President Aliyev. "It's planned to carry 5 million tons of cargo in the first stage and 17 million tons in the next stage." In his turn, President Erdogan highlighted the strategic importance of this project for the revival of the New Silk Road and noted that with the inauguration of the BTK project "the key leg of the Middle Corridor has now been completed."

The ceremony was followed by the symbolic driving of railroad spikes and the pulling of railroad switches that officially sent off the first cargo train along the BTK railway. The freight train arrived at the new Port of Baku in Alat after traversing 2,846 km from north-western Kazakhstan and crossing the Caspian Sea on a rail ferry. It will journey an additional 2,002 km in four days from Baku to the Port of Mersin in Turkey.

The BTK project is part of a larger strategy of Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev to diversify the country's oil-rich economy and turn it into a trade and logistics hub in Eurasia. This strategy also includes the upcoming completion of the first phase of the new Port of Baku and the launch of the Alat Free Trade Zone in 2018. Located at the strategic crossroads of Europe and Asia and nearby sizeable markets such as Turkey, China, Iran and Russia, Azerbaijan is poised to become the top choice for foreign investors aiming to expand their business in the region.

Contact: Zaur Hasanov, 99450 2645020.

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