The first official train of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway (BTK) will depart from Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku with an official ceremony on Oct. 30, Turkish Transport, Maritime and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan announced Friday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will also attend the ceremony, Minister Arslan said.

The BTK Railway project marks the completion of the crucial railway link between Turkey and Azerbaijan that was formerly severed due to poor relations with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh row, and will connect the eastern Turkish province of Kars with the Azeri capital of Baku via the Caspian Sea and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

The railway will boost the transport of freight between Turkey and landlocked Central Asian countries and serve as an alternative trade route for the recently developing rail transport between Asia and Europe in general.

First private train operator hits the tracks

Minister Arslan’s announcement came during a signing ceremony between Turkish State Railways (TCDD) and Omsan Logistics which was awarded Turkey’s first private train operator status, the result of legislative reform previously introduced in 2013 which allows private train operators to use the TCDD-owned network alongside the public-owned operator TCDD Transport.

Omsan Logistics will initially rent out 15 electric locomotives and 350 ore wagons for the transportation of iron ore from mines in central Turkey’s Sivas province to the Isdemir Iron and Steel Plant in southern Turkey’s port city of Iskenderun, which are all group companies of Oyak Holding, one of Turkey’s largest industrial conglomerates.

Emphasizing their efforts to promote fair competition and healthy structure in the railway market, Minister Arslan called on the private sector to shoulder its responsibility and to take part in the growing sector of railway freight transport.

The minister noted that Turkey has invested extensively in rail transport in recent years, including the restoration project of a 10,000 kilometre (6,214-mile) section of the existing 11,000-kilometer conventional railway network, laying an additional 1,213 kilometres of high-speed tracks and 1,600 kilometres of conventional railway tracks as well as the signalization of a 3,000 kilometre section and expanding the length of electrified tracks by 2,200 kilometres.

Arslan added that Turkey aims to extend its rail network to 25,000 kilometres by 2023, by extending high-speed, fast and conventional tracks by 3,500, 8,500 and 1,000 kilometres, respectively.

Source:  Daily Sabbah

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