President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
"This year will be a very important year for the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. It is going to be, one can say, the first year of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway operation. I have noted that there is great interest in this road and that it has already renewed the transport map of Eurasia, and Azerbaijan has contributed to this. "
(From the inaugural speech at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the outcomes of the socio-economic development in 2017 and upcoming duties. January 10, 2018)
By joining the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, Azerbaijan has taken another prospective step. Along with all the economic structures it can bring, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project is turning into a very important factor of Azerbaijan's influence in the region as the country is becoming a transit transportation center.
The implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project is the focus of attention of the governments and heads of the railways of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This will create great opportunities to establish close transport links between the three states and other countries, also interested in using the services of that transport corridor.
The negotiations on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad link project have started as early as on July 26-29, 1993, at the meeting of the Joint Transport Commission between Turkey and Georgia held in Ankara. At the meeting of transport ministers of Turkey and Georgia in Istanbul, Turkey, on 20-21 July, 2002, the protocol on the implementation of this project envisaging preparatory works was signed. During his official visit to Georgia on June 14, 2004, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, said at a press conference with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that he supported the Georgian-Turkish railway project and said Azerbaijan was ready to participate in the project.
Since then negotiations in the direction of realization of the project have intensified, and over the last period a number of meetings dedicated to the establishment of railway communication has been held.
Another important fact has to be mentioned here. Thus, an important document was signed at the opening of the Azerbaijani part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export pipeline named after Heydar Aliyev on May 25, 2005. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and the President of the Republic of Turkey Ahmet Nejdet Sezer signed a Declaration on the project of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This Declaration was actually a clear sign of attention paid to the project by the heads of the three states.
The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, as in other important respects, has demonstrated his firm position concerning the realization of the railway communication in Baku-Tbilisi-Kars direction.
The logical conclusion to the negotiations on the project was the signing of an agreement on the start of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project on February 7, 2007, during President Ilham Aliyev's working visit to Georgia.
On February 7, 2007, the trilateral meeting of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took place in the Georgian Parliament building. On the same day and at the same place the signing ceremony of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey trilateral regional cooperation summit’s documents was held.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed a Decree on February 21, 2007, on measures to implement the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project.
It should be said, that under the Framework agreement on the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, Azerbaijan has granted Georgia a $ 775 million credit with a minimum annual interest rate for the implementation of the project.
On November 21, 2007, the construction of the Georgian part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link at Marabda station in Georgia's Tetri-Skaro region and on July 24, 2008, the construction of the Turkish part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in Kars, Turkey, began.
On October 30, 2017, the opening ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line destined not only to connect the three nations, but to play a role of the bridge between dozens of nations and countries, was held.
The opening ceremony at the Baku International Sea Trade Port was attended by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his spouse Emine Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Bakitjan Sagintayev,the Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan Abdulla Aripov as well as delegations from the Republic of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Azerbaijan's participation in any projects that can bring stability, peace and economic benefit to the region is a very important issue from any point of view. By joining this traffic artery, Azerbaijan will be able to accept and send cargo from different countries, from China to Europe.
For the passenger trains planned to be operated on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route, the Azerbaijani side has already ordered from Switzerland’s Stadler company the delivery of 30 sleeping cars of four categories: "standard", "comfort", "business" and "restaurant". Bogie changes in these high-technology cars for adaptation to different track standards will be carried out automatically, which will prevent the loss of time at border crossing points and ensure the greater comfort for passengers.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is a project that has been under constant control of the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly stressed the importance of this transport corridor. He said that the initiators of the railway - Georgia and Turkey - could have expanded their mutual trade turnover even without it. However, this railway is required to connect Asia with Europe, as it is the shortest transportation route.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project marks the restoration of the ancient Silk Road through the railway.
504 km of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (with total length of 846 km) run through the territory of Azerbaijan, 263 km through Georgia and 79 km through Turkey.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will facilitate the access of Central Asian countries – Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan – to European and world markets. The future attraction of European and Asian cargoes to this railway will increase the volume of multimodal transportations in both directions. Thus, the line’s turnover capacity is expected to equal to 3-5 million tons of cargo by the third operational year, 6-8 million tons of cargo by the fifth operational year, and then up to 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo per year. This shows that, along with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey will also highly benefit from transit transportations. All this is a clear sign of importance, safety, reliability and speed of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Once this route has been commissioned, there will be a double decrease in travel time compared with current transportations, which will further increase the efficiency of the project.
Another important aspect of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad is the establishment of a direct railway connection with Turkey and Georgia that Azerbaijan has achieved taking advantage of the project’s opportunities. This railway will also have a great impact on tourism development in the region. Thus, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which has a global significance, connects two continents with steel rails and lays foundation for great socio-economic benefits. And most importantly, the operation of the railway is the greatest contribution to stability in the region, to making our peoples closer and to economic development. This contribution is based on the steady friendship and brotherhood of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.