Azerbaijan to reconstruct its railway to Russia

Azerbaijan to reconstruct its railway to Russia

Azerbaijan will start reconstructing of the  Baku-Yalama railway to the border with Russia in 2018, which is part of the International North-South Transport Corridor, the republic's President Ilham Aliyev said at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the results of socioeconomic development of 2017 and objectives.

"The reconstruction and repair of the Baku-Yalama railway are reflected in the investment program for this year," Aliyev said, according to the presidential website.

He added that the relocation of the Baku-Astara railway, in particular the part, which is close to the sea will be done.

The President noted that it will be of great importance for both tourism and cargo transportation.

"Another project has been added to the investment program - the construction of the Leki-Gabala railway. Today Gabala is the second tourist center of Azerbaijan after Baku. Laying the railway to Gabala will speed up the flow of tourists. In the coming years, it is also planned to build a railway to the Shahdag ski resort," President Aliyev stressed, adding that the Baku-Yalama route and the railway to Gusar will find their solution in a single project.

The International North-South Transport Corridor, which currently stretches from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf to Russia, Eurasia and Europe, will cut down the time of cargo transportation to about 17 days from the earlier 35 days. At the initial stage, it is planned to transport 5 million tons of cargo via the North-South corridor per year.

A scientist of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies of the RAS Institute of Economics, Artem Pylin, speaking with Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the reconstruction of the road to Russia fits into Azerbaijan's infrastructure strategy. "In recent years, Azerbaijan has been striving to maximize its transit opportunities, and this applies not only to the North-South, but also to the West-East, including the commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. North-South is a very interesting direction taking into account the potential of trade growth between Russia and Iran, as well as Russia and other countries of the Persian Gulf. And the reconstruction of the Baku-Yalama railway to the Russian border has a very important and prospective significance not only for Azerbaijan, but also for Russia and Iran, as it will significantly increase the potential of trade turnover between them," he pointed out.

The expert stressed that infrastructure projects are very beneficial for Azerbaijan. "The development of transit potential is the right choice of the republic, especially when the oil industry ceases to be the driver of economic growth, and this role is assumed by non-raw material sectors, including transport complex. Azerbaijan has a very favorable transport and geographic location. Those investments, which are directed to the growth of transit potential, including the creation of a hub and the development of the Port of Baku at Alat, indicate that this policy of the authorities is of a strategic nature, which is very important of Azerbaijan," Artem Pylin said.

Political scientist Rovshan Ibragimov, in turn, specified the details of the forthcoming reconstruction. "The infrastructure of the Baku-Yalama railway has existed from the Soviet era, back then it was used to transport a limited number of passengers and some cargo. But since it will become part of the railway route from India to Europe in the framework of the North-South project, there was a need to increase its endurance and sustainability, as well as provide logistical support, including the construction of train stations. In addition, it is required to increase the maximum road speed, which today is an average of 25-35 km/h, it will take about 10 hours for cargo to go through the Azerbaijani territory. If the infrastructure allows trains to travel at speeds of around 100 km/h, Azerbaijan's transit time will be reduced to 2.5 hours, and its capacity will increase," he explained.

The expert expects that similar work will be carried out in Dagestan. "Russia regularly modernizes the railways in different directions, and now, I think that improving the southern Russian section of the North-South will be the first priority for the government of Dagestan," Rovshan Ibragimov said.

The political scientist stressed that the development of the infrastructure component of Azerbaijan's economy is a significant contribution to the future of the republic. "Azerbaijan is working on the development of its regions and increasing the living standards of people there, building infrastructure is an important part of regional policy. It is expected that at the early stages of the implementation of transport projects the first benefits will be received by the population living from north to south along the North-South railway, as well as the residents of the districts where the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars runs and where in the future the Chinese One Belt One Road can be built," he concluded.