Turkey intends to become Asia-Europe transit hub
In a major milestone, the first train carrying goods from Turkey to China reached its destination Saturday, Turkey's transport and infrastructure minister said. "Announcing Turkey's power in logistics to the world from every city it passed through, the China Export Train is our victory in rail transport," Adil Karaismailoğlu wrote on Twitter, Daily Sabah writes in the article Turkey plans new trips as 1st export train completes landmark trip to China. The train set off from Istanbul on Dec. 4 and covered a distance of 8,693 kilometers (over 5,400 miles) across Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea, and Kazakhstan to reach Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi province in central China.
Passing beneath the Bosporus through Istanbul's Marmaray tunnel, the train followed the Trans Caspian East-West Middle Corridor via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway. It passed Istanbul, the northwestern province of Kocaeli, the capital Ankara, the central Sivas province and eastern Kars province before making a stop at the Akhalkalaki Station in Georgia. It then traveled across Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan before entering Xi'an province.
The journey included more than 2,300 kilometers in Turkey, 220 kilometers in Georgia, 430 kilometers in Azerbaijan, 420 kilometers across the Caspian Sea, 3,200 kilometers in Kazakhstan, and 2,100 kilometers in China.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also lauded the development during an inauguration ceremony Saturday, saying this is a major success for Turkey.
"With these transports, freight costs and duration will decrease significantly, while the competitiveness of both Turkey and manufacturers will increase," Karaismailoğlu said. The minister underlined that the export train is the most important piece of proof that Turkey is set to become the center of transit transport between Asia and Europe. "The Middle Corridor that passes through our country starts from Beijing, crosses the Caspian Sea and comes to Turkey. From here, it reaches Europe," he explained. "On Dec. 4, we sent our first block export train from Istanbul to China. Our train made history as the first export train to China using the Marmaray from the European side and via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Iron Silk Road," the minister said.
In November 2019, Turkey and the world witnessed a historic moment after Ankara welcomed and sent off the first train that departed for China and Europe passing under the Bosporus via the Marmaray tunnel, marking the realization of the "Silk Railway" dream. It made the journey on the Turkey-pioneered Trans Caspian East-West Middle Corridor and the Marmaray rail line. The real Silk Road was an active trade route used between the second century B.C. and the 18th century A.C. that connected China and Europe through Anatolia and the Mediterranean region. China's Railway Express directly connected the Czech Republic's Prague to Xi'an via Turkey.
Within the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe via roads and sea lanes, the railway is reducing the freight transportation time between China and Turkey from one month to 12 days thanks to the BTK railway line, while the whole route between the Far East and Western Europe takes 18 days with the integration of the Marmaray tunnel.
Providing the shortest rail link between Europe and Asia, the BTK plays an important role in the implementation of the initiative.