Baku and Tbilisi to be connected with high-speed trains
Since October 24, (Azerbaijan Railways) launched regular railway traffic of a high-speed train along the Baku-Tbilisi-Baku route. Prima M4 made by French company Alstom Transportation S.A will be following the route between two neighboring countries. It has already proved itself in Europe and is being used at several prestigious European destinations.
Locomotive Prima M4 is able to accelerate to 160 km/h. This is much more compared to current 70-90 km/h, with which trains on the Baku-Tbilisi-Baku route have been moving so far. If previously trains covered this distance (about 550 kilometers) in 12 hours (including stops), then thanks to the high-speed train, travel time can be reduced to 6-7 hours.
However, as Mamuka Chantladze, Georgian expert on transport communications, noted in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza, Georgian railway authorities, in particular Georgian Railway company, "will have to carry out important infrastructure changes so that Prima M4 can show all of its capabilities."
Chantladze recalled that so far, the fastest train that follows the Tbilisi-Batumi-Tbilisi route was made by Swiss company Stadler and has top speed of 105 km/h, not because it's unable to move faster, but because of problems with infrastructure.
According to expert, there's probably a separate agreement between the government structures of the two countries, otherwise the Azerbaijan Railways wouldn't join this project. Otherwise, it could turn out to be costly and ineffective despite the fact that, according to Azerbaijani company, new braking system used in the Prima M4 locomotive "reduces energy consumption, and presence of lubrication system for locomotive wheel flanges prolongs their longevity."
Tickets for new train can be bought online and are already on sale at a price of $30-$70. Moreover, new train is much more comfortable than trains that still operate between Azerbaijan and Georgia and consist Soviet-made wagons from the 1970s.
For Georgia, launch of new high-speed route with a neighboring state means increase in tourist flow. Tourism has become the country's main industry in recent years. The National Tourism Administration (NAC) of Georgia told Vestnik Kavkaza that the number of Azerbaijani visitors is growing rapidly: if in 2017 1301556 Azerbaijanis visited Georgia, last year this number already reached 1424610. In other words, we can see 9.5% growth. The same trend continued in the current year.
Georgia hopes that railway companies of the two countries will also agree to launch Baku-Batumi trains, which will greatly benefit Adzharian resorts: Batumi, Kobuleti, Chakvi and others. It would be much more convenient for tourist from Azerbaijan who wants to relax near the Black Sea coast, especially since Prima M4 is extremely comfortable.
Launch of the Baku-Tbilisi high-speed train is important for another reason: it became the "harbinger" of comfortable passenger traffic along the Baku-Tbilisi-Istanbul route, recently completed highway connecting railways of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. So far, new route is just being tested and used for freight transportations, but it was initially assumed that this route will be in demand among many tourists.