The past year has been one of the most difficult for the Azerbaijani economy in recent times. The sharp fall in oil revenues and the ensuing budget cuts and public investment had a negative impact on the overall economic situation in the country. In his most recent statements is openly acknowledged and the political leadership of the country. However, the government has no choice but to implement a package of reforms that strengthen the non-oil sector of the economy. Febrile economy can save the investment of the non-oil economy.
One of the areas that determine the economic development of the country, is transport. Azerbaijan has in recent years initiated a number of major transport projects to transform the country into a regional logistics hub, as previously mentioned haqqin.az.
The words of President Ilham Aliyev and the performance of their railroad
Last year the head of the Railways of Azerbaijan Javid Gurbanov made a promising Outlook. According to the estimates of the head of Azerbaijan Railways, Azerbaijan can annually receive from the transit of goods of $ 2.5 billion. However, this goal can be realized if you will be provided an annual transfer across the country 50 million tons of cargo.
What made Azerbaijan to achieve this strategic plan? One of the main transport Azerbaijan’s achievements in the last year became, undoubtedly, the connection of railway systems of Azerbaijan and Iran. Was built for this railway bridge Astara (Azerbaijan) — Astara (Iran) and paved 8-km section at the entrance to Azerbaijani-Iranian border. Despite the relatively small scale of operations, they were not held for two decades.
For a full run of the corridor “North — South” the Iranian side can only finish the section of the route the Qazvin — Rasht. The Iranian side complained about the lack of financial resources. But given the strategic importance for our country project “North — South” Azerbaijan has agreed to assist the Iranian side with the search of loans.
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting dedicated to the results of 2016, President Ilham Aliyev said that Azerbaijan just eight months completed the task, standing before him in connection with the corridor North-South, adding that the country had fulfilled its obligations and put forward additional initiatives related to the accelerated input of this major project.
The head of state added that as a result of this project the goods coming from India and Pakistan will be shipped through the territory of Azerbaijan to Iran, Russia, North Europe and back. This will contribute to greater traffic and transit of goods.
It is worth noting that the idea of creating a direct route from India to Russia and Europe has existed for about 400 years, but is being implemented right now. The territory of Azerbaijan will become a key link of this route.
It is noteworthy that the project of integration of Azerbaijani railway system with Iran met with a painful reaction to Armenia, who scored the alarm about the revenge of Azerbaijan in the transportation war. The fact that the commissioning phase of Astara (Azerbaijan) — Astara (Iran) put an end to another regional project — the construction of the railway Iran — Armenia. The economic efficiency of this project today reduced to zero, as Iran is the second duplicate thread was not needed.
At the same time, without waiting for the implementation of the route “North — South”, CJSC Azerbaijan Railways (Azerbaijan Railways) joined the struggle for the transit cargo, initiating freight forwarders for a temporary route. A scheme, by which goods from India, Iran and other countries will be transported to the Rest of the Iranian railway, and thence be delivered to Azerbaijan by road. In 2016 this temporary route has proven not only its viability, but considerable efficiency. Thousands of tons of cargo were delivered by this route from Iran to Russia.
Similarly, Azerbaijan has brought into the working condition and the corridor, “South-West”. This direction is an extremely long route: India — Iran — Azerbaijan — Georgia — Black sea — Europe.
With the train station in Astara Azerbaijan in Batumi (Georgia) has sent thousands of tons of cargo. From Batumi port by sea they ferried across the Black sea to the destination. At the initial stage, this scheme is planned to supply monthly up to 10 thousand tons, but with the full commissioning of the corridor, “South — West” this figure will increase tenfold.
That will give us New silk Road?
Azerbaijan is actively involved in the cargo transport on the route “East — West”, bearing the expert community of the “New silk road”. During a visit to China the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev among other issues discussed with the leaders of China and prospects of development of transport corridors. Created by the efforts of China’s TRANS-Asian corridor, the so-called New silk road, has a very complex structure: China — Kazakhstan (including new railway Zhezkazgan — Beineu and Aktau port) — Azerbaijan — Georgia — Turkey. In the second part of the route (Baku — Istanbul) will involve the construction of the Georgian railway line of Akhalkalaki — Kars. The project for Azerbaijan too big rate, bigger than life. And here’s the technical side of the project was on the agenda during visits of Azerbaijani railway in China.
Attraction of cargo traffic in Azerbaijan in 2016 was facilitated by the close cooperation of Azerbaijan Railways and the Baku international sea trade port. Thanks to this cooperation in the end of last year from Turkmenistan to the Black sea via Azerbaijan was carried out a test transportation of urea. Azerbaijani railway has made a record transit 300 thousand tons of cargo from Turkmenistan in the new year.
At the beginning of 2017 must be completed and the construction of strategically important railway line Baku — Tbilisi — Kars (BTK). The Azerbaijani and Georgian sections of the pipeline have long been ready, but the launch of the route was delayed due to the delay of work on the Turkish section. However, Turkish officials have given assurances that the major work on their site is almost completed and the entire project will be commissioned in the first half of 2017. BTK, the capacity of which only the beginning will be 6.5 million tons of cargo and one million passengers for the first time in the history of Azerbaijan will provide direct access to European markets. The same peak capacity of the corridor is scheduled to 17 million tons of cargo per year. The highway will be key link of the TRANS-Caspian transport route.
Speed determines consciousness
In addition to the development of transport corridors and increase transit capacity, the “Azerbaijan Railways” launched a completely new for Azerbaijan and the whole region the concept of high-speed rail passenger traffic.
The main problem that must be addressed to the railway in this direction — increasing the speed of trains. Today between various cities in Europe, USA and Japan run high-speed trains, capable of speeds up to 400-500 km/h. it is Clear that the railway system of Azerbaijan inherited from the Soviet Union, unable to adapt to European and American standards. And its full replacement requires investments in the billions of dollars that the state today because of many economic reasons is unable to provide.
However, the government is clearly aware that any further delay in the introduction of high-speed rail passenger traffic the risk that Azerbaijan will miss the real chance of introducing a system of means of communication that meet international standards. For this reason, at the end of 2015 was launched first in Azerbaijan, and in General in the region, high-speed train Baku-Sumgayit-Baku. Commissioning of the high-speed route has already unloaded an automobile stream on the main highway between Baku and Sumgait cities, reducing traffic jams and congestion on the roads. In a relatively short period of time, the number of passengers using the train, amounted to one million people, and this means that people appreciated the advantage and comfort of a decent alternative. In the near future, Azerbaijan Railways is going to increase ridership on this route twice.
As noted above, this is the first successful project in the history of Azerbaijan to launch high-speed trains. In an ideal future, these high-speed trains will connect all the major cities in the country.
Thus, the “Azerbaijan Railways” are already working on the creation of high-speed rail route Baku — Ganja. This project is scheduled for completion in late 2017.
Talking about the possibilities of this project, CJSC Azerbaijan Railways said that the speed of the trains in this direction will be 100-140 kilometers per hour. According to them, Azerbaijan does not yet have the capabilities to run on this route trains at a speed of 400-500 km/HR, however, and 110-140 km/h is enough to rail transportation became more economical both in time and cost than motorway communications.
The creation of high-speed rail is a giant and strategic megaproject, requiring large financial investments. In addition, there is an acute issue and the profitability of passenger traffic. Please note, the fare on high-speed trains in Germany, in particular, the 3.5-hour trip between Berlin and Dortmund is 86 euros in IC/EC and 98 Euro per ICE. A standard ticket from Cologne to Munich (4.5-6 hours) will cost 108 euros in IC/EC and ICE 112-142 euros. The road from Berlin to Leipzig or Dresden (1,5-2 hours) is worth 40 Euro in IC/EC and ICE in 47 Euro. So, the introduction in Azerbaijan of the European model railway system high-speed communications actualizes the issue of profitability of the project, especially in light of new economic realities and the ongoing devaluation of the manat.
Today fares from Baku to Sumgait on the high-speed train is 80 cents. It’s a pretty reasonable price, considering the small distance between the cities. For example, in Russia the fare on the trains “Aeroexpress” at a distance of 45 km (in manat equivalent) 6.30 AZN, while in the Estonian suburban electric train — at 35.9 km 3.35% of the manat.
In addition, in Ukraine, in the suburban electric train price for 37 km is 2.90 manats in Uzbekistan 2.50 AZN in Turkey, 46 km 5,20 manat, and in Kazakhstan — 6,10 manat. As for the cost of transportation of one passenger on the train Baku-Sumgait, it is neither more nor less — $ 6.
The expected cost of transportation of one passenger on the route Baku-Ganja is still unknown, but the railroad plans to install the fare is 15 AZN. These figures speak for themselves: at this stage, the launch of high-speed trains in the Azerbaijan — a very unprofitable project. But the picture radically changed after the improvement of the Azerbaijani economy and of the branching system modern high-speed Railways, when high-speed train connects many major cities of the country, and the trip on the train, however, now high-speed, will become widespread. High-speed trains and trains will not only be cost-effective from the point of view of popularization of this form of transport, but will provide large revenues to the state Treasury. Will ensure not only the sustainability of the project, but a continuing profit to the state budget. Moreover, the new project of Azerbaijan will significantly change the nature and importance of the transportation system in the South Caucasus. The launch of the new model is not only a matter of time, but the challenge of tomorrow. And’agde, beginning to prepare for the implementation of this very important project.
The hostility of the opposition
Another significant event of the past year was the launch of the train, Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan) — Mashhad (Iran). The trains in this route will be served twice a week — on Thursdays and Sundays.
I must say that the opening of this route was met with the blast of the opposition of the users of social networks, which believes that the route will not be popular in particular because of the high cost of tickets. A worthy answer to the critics was not long in coming: speaking at the event dedicated to the end of 2016, the head of CJSC “Azerbaijani Railways” Javid Gurbanov has stated that a passenger train Nakhichevan — Mashhad on the first day of its release on a route used by dozens of people. The head of Azerbaijan Railways said that his Agency will continue to make efforts for the development of the railway system in Nakhchivan, and his dream is to connect Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan direct railway.
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting at the end of 2016, President Ilham Aliyev described the launch of the route Nakhichevan-Mashhad historical project. According to him, this project displays the Azerbaijan Nakhchivan railway blockade.
In their speeches, the President of Azerbaijan also noted that once fully operational the corridor “North-South” Nakhchivan is connected by railway with the main part of Azerbaijan through Iran.
“We want to accelerate this project to make it happen as soon as possible. Then produced in Nakhchivan, the goods will be supplied on world markets, which, of course, will create additional opportunities for people,” said Ilham Aliyev.
Thus, commitment and determination in implementing the vital project, despite the problems caused by economic disorder, demonstrate a clear understanding of the inevitability of the introduction in Azerbaijan of modern systems of communications. The train went, the process is started. Project completion is only a matter of time.
Road better a bad peace than a good quarrel
It is clear that at the moment as a result of occupation of Azerbaijani territories and the actual state of war with Armenia, the implementation of such projects — the idea is very illusive and unrealizable. But the strategy of the state cannot proceed from the requirements and realities of today. Albeit shaky, but a long-awaited peace and stability of the system of regional security in the South Caucasus — it is obvious and logical perspective non-future. And when between the two countries will be reached albeit shaky world, will certainly see the economic priorities, in particular, the restoration and improvement of transport corridors. Because of its occupation policy, Armenia was in economic and transport blockade. The occupant country is isolated from the railway route Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, as well as powerless in their efforts to implement the project of construction of railway to Iran.
And peace between the two countries will make the real establishment of the direct route of Nakhchivan-Azerbaijan and Iran-Nakhchivan-Armenia. The solution to territorial disputes in the South Caucasus will create a completely new geopolitical reality, which will need a new transport and logistics concept.
The results of last year showed that “Azerbaijan Railways” focused on several strategically important for the country directions. First and foremost, it is the attraction of transit through the territory of the country million tons of cargo, which will ensure the inflow of foreign currency. In addition, railroad workers working on the creation and implementation of a totally new concept of high-speed passenger traffic. One more direction of activities of the government in the railway sector — establishment of new routes, which in the future will be involved in the new transport artery of the region. Work in all areas of a lot, but most importantly, the reforms are already yielding fruit, and that means you can not stop…