Minister Mehmet Cahit Turkhan: "Passengers will be able to travel directly from Ankara to Baku by train” - INTERVIEW

Minister Mehmet Cahit Turkhan: "Passengers will be able to travel directly from Ankara to Baku by train” - INTERVIEW
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  • calendar-gray 06 August 2019

Interview of Mehmet Cahit Turkhan, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure to APA

- Mr. Minister, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated at the opening ceremony of Baku-Tbilisi-Gars (BTG) railway in 2017 that it would be an important part of the Eurasian transport map of the historical Silkway. What is the Turkish position in that regard?

- I would like to evaluate Baku-Tbilisi-Gars railway project together with Chinese “Belt and Road” project. The project revealed in March of 2015 aims to create the network of infrastructure, transport, investment, energy, and trade. In order to ensure profit from increasing trade volume and investment environment of our countries, we have to join to the key transport corridors and consider our transport infrastructures in that regard.

Turkey is on the China-Central and Western Asian corridor that is also called “Middle Corridor”. Turkish position is that it should be an active policy regarding “Belt and Road” project.

It is 17 years that key direction of transport policy of our country is to realize wide-ranged infrastructure investments in order to provide constant delivery from China to London.

Our long-term activities continue in the field of organization of railway networks and integration of highway roads in both Anadolu and Caucasus and the Middle East in order to ensure the development of Middle Corridor – historical Silkway extended from the Far East to Europe which was the main route of trade caravans for centuries. We take important measures to develop diverse transport network in the background of Asia-Europe-Near East and realize projects to improve east to west and north to south transport connections. Therefore the future of “Belt and Road” project covers our geographic area. We believe that the state of transport in the near future in Anadolu-Caucasus-Middle Eat triangle will be in more developed condition than now. Certainly, this corridor will improve not only economic but also cultural and social ties between nations. Therefore, Baku-Tbilisi-Gars railway project bears great importance as infrastructure that connects all roads that come from China and the Middle East to our country. This project doesn’t just connect 3 countries. It also joins together England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and China.

829 km railway from Baku to Gars completes important part of Caspian Transit Middle Corridor line. However, the importance of this project will be understood in coming years. Because the daily trade turnover between China and Europe reached $1,5 billion. It is expected that this trade stream will increase in 5-6 years to reach daily $2 billion.

In this context, it is important that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line be operated to the fullest extent and that the completion of the line is complete. On the other hand, Marmaray Pipeline, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, North Marmara Highway, and Eurasia Tunnel, Osman Gazi Bridge, high-speed trains and high-speed trains, North Aegean Port, Gebze Orhangazi-Izmir Highway, 1915 Canakkale Bridge, Istanbul We also seek to maximize the benefits that this corridor provides. In particular, we are implementing major projects that will be a continuation of this corridor, both with public and private entities, using both faster, less costly, and private sector dynamics.

-How much cargo has been carried by BTG line so far? What is your forecast on shipping for the end of the year and medium term?

-210 thousand cargo have been transported by 3527 wagons since the launch of BTG line. Shippings are being increased. For short time 1 bln tons, for medium term 3 bln tons and for long term 6 bln and 500 thousand tons cargo are planned to transport on BTG railway line.

-At present preparations are underway for passenger transportation by this railway. When will be this process started?

-Actually, the stage of passenger transportation via this line is in the beginning. Even the price of passenger train has been determined, instruction for deconstructions (security instructions) have been prepared and given to Azerbaijan and Georgia sides.

-How much will tickets cost from Baku to Gars and opposite direction?

-The meeting was held about this issue in April. Related sides discussed the prices. Separately, the medium price for luxury and comfort wagons were determined. 798 Turkish lira for luxury wagons and 621 Turkish lire for comfort wagons has been offered.  But it is planned to discuss these prices again.

-Recently, the ticket prices for Baku-Ankara train have been announced. It has been reported that prices depending on wagon class are 350 lire (108 AZN), 600 lire (185 AZN) and 850 Turkish lire (262 AZN)….

-As I mentioned before approximate prices are known. Depending on the wagon class, prices vary between 408 (126 manats), 621 (191 manats) and 798 (246 manats) lira.

-When will Baku Ankara line be commissioned completely? Will the train go directly to Ankara, or passengers change the trains in Gars?

-Baku-Ankara train is not only expected by fraternal Azerbaijani people, but also by our citizens expect it with great interest. I am proud to share this moment with the citizens of our countries. : Carriages used in the BTG line (wagon rail system adjustment system) now have standard and extensive technical specifications. Therefore passengers can travel from Ankara to Baku and in the opposite direction directly. Citizens of all three countries will be informed when the line is fully operational.

- How many passengers are expected to be transported through the route within a year? How does passenger transportation via railway effect to the development of the relations between neighboring countries?

- It is known that Turkey has neighboring rights with Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as Turkey certainly has fraternal relations with both of the countries. The project will provide to tighten the relations between these fraternal countries much more. The main issue is that countries will jointly transport products, they have manufactured. The great project, conducted in the frame of mutual reliance and cooperation, will trigger cultural and moral ties between countries, as passenger transportation is started through it. At the same time, the BTK route will be the safest and most profitable transportation mean of the Asia-Europe corridor in not only Turkey but also Azerbaijan and Georgia with its High-Speed Train Projects. That is why the number of passengers is expected to be high. We assess the BTK project as a social, cultural, and economic project, more than a railway project. The project will carry out transportation in the most productive form. Friendship and fraternity relations between countries, existing along with the history, will increase much more thanks to the BTK railway project. The route will also improve trade.

- An agreement between relevant Ministries of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, and Iran on satellite services, cybersecurity, post, and fiber-optic networks. What is the news in this field?

- We decided to establish a joint body in order to provide development of relations of public and private institutions, acting in the information technologies field much more in Ministerial meeting of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, and Iran in 2018. In this framework, our bodies, especially TURKSAT and BTK, acting under our ministry, organize meeting with relevant institutions of the three countries and we are expecting a start of our joint works, especially satellite services, cybersecurity, fiber-optic networks.

- Which sectors of Azerbaijan does the Ministry, led by you, cooperate with further?

- Turkey has provided necessary support since the first times of independence of Azerbaijan and will always continue to do. Our joint projects such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, and TANAP have branded in the region. Turkey is one of the greatest investors of Azerbaijan. We believe Azerbaijan will reach the same level as Turkey in this field in the following times. We never consider done works enough, and will always continue so. Two fraternal countries will never halt mutual assistance. We will establish great cooperation in the future. The task of the countries is to maintain, strengthen and deliver these relations to the coming generations.  We are proud of the projects, conducted by Azerbaijan.

Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway route, one of our greatest logistic and infrastructure projects with both Azerbaijan and the countries of the region, and Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement are one of the most significant components of the Middle Corridor of Historical Silk Road routes. 

Most of the projects will increase significance of the regional countries from the restoration of the Historical Silk Road and combination of European transportation networks with Middle East, Southern East, China, Pakistan, and India point of view. Transportation sector will play role of the most important mechanism, triggering Turkish trade with Azerbaijan, as well as with entire Middle and Eastern Asia geography. One of the Turkey’s goals for 2023 is to improve relations with Azerbaijan.

Sevil Unal Hilalgızı

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