Military Review

The start of operation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway does not make local optimists happy

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A month ago, at the Alat station, which is 70 kilometers from the center of the Azerbaijani capital, the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey, Ilham Aliyev and Recep Erdogan, together with Georgian Prime Minister Georgi Kvirikashvili, launched the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway line. There was, of course, a landmark event opening up new opportunities for people and companies of neighboring countries. This is their third major joint infrastructure project after the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline.


The start of operation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway does not make local optimists happy


Ten years path

The first two projects were financed with the participation of large Western oil and gas companies and were accompanied by a great propaganda rhetoric about “new perspectives of Europe, getting rid of hydrocarbon dependence on Russia”. This flow of Azerbaijan was actively picked up by Western media. For Russian companies, they painted the darkest prospects, for European consumers - a real energy paradise.

Time put everything in its place. As it turned out, the resource base of Azerbaijan does not allow it to oust the Russian Gazprom from southern Europe. Now, two branches of the new gas pipeline stretch across the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey, each of which exceeds the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, advertised in every way.

Similar история It happened with the construction of the railway. She immediately began to position as the main direction of the “New Silk Road” from China to Europe. It seemed so. Kazakhstan accepts Chinese goods at the border in the new railway terminal of the so-called “dry port” Khorgos. Holds them through its territory. Then he transports ferry to Baku.

Further cargoes follow the new route through Georgia to Turkey. Then - on the already existing railways - to Europe. The propagandists of this idea did not bother at all that Beijing completely refused to participate in any form in the construction of a railway from Azerbaijan to Turkey.

The project was not set from the very beginning. He was not financed by US and EU companies. Azerbaijan had to take the burden of construction of the highway. He spent over a billion dollars on a new 105-kilometer branch from Georgian Akhalkalaki to Kars and partially modernizing the domestic railway networks. Out in less than ten years. Although the plan for the implementation of the project allotted four years.

China has not sent a representative to the opening ceremony of the highway. The company to the triumphant owners of the road was made only by the prime ministers of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - Bakytzhan Sagintayev and Abdulla Aripov. Their participation reflected the interest of the countries of Central Asia in the transportation of their own goods to Turkey along a new route.

President Aliyev did not fail to take advantage of this. At the ceremony, he called the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars road "the shortest and most reliable connection between Asia and Europe." Strictly speaking, the distance from the final destination of the highway - East Turkish Kars - to Europe is one and a half times longer than actually to Baku (826 kilometers from Baku versus 1428 from Kars to Istanbul). But very few people paid attention to this detail.

Moreover, Aliyev was played up by the European Commission. She sent her greetings to the participants of the celebrations on the occasion of the completion of the construction of the highway, in which she noted that the opening of the new message is “a big step in the transport connection of the European Union, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Central Asia.”

What did the first BTK freight train show?

After the celebrations in Alyat, a month passed. During this time, only one freight train passed through the BTK highway. From Kazakhstani Kokshetau in the Turkish port of Mersin arrived composition with 30 grain containers. On 5435 kilometers he spent 10 days. Usually, grain is shipped in special bulk wagons. For the passage of wheat on the BTK had to use railway containers.

The fact is that on the road from Kokshetau to Mesin it is necessary to overcome the Caspian Sea. There is a ferry crossing between the Kazakh port of Kuryk and the Azerbaijani Alat. Much has been written about her as about the weakest link in the proposed “New Silk Road”. First, because in ports only container handling. Secondly, its capabilities do not correspond to the volume of goods from China.

China, as we remember, is keeping to the new highway. (Which does not prevent Western media from speculating on the geopolitical weakening of Russia due to the new transport corridor). The Kazakhs dragged their grain to the overseas port at an 22 pace per kilometer per hour. In Mersin, the line-up was filled with Turkish cargo and sent back with speeches and ovations in a solemn atmosphere.

So two beneficiaries of the new highway - Kazakhstan and Turkey - appeared. In the absence of their own cargo traffic, Azerbaijan and Georgia continue to advertise their transit potential. Last week, another “New Silk Road” forum was held in Tbilisi, at which Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili boasted that an alternative round of Russia had now appeared.

The Georgian prime minister modestly remarked that in the time they were busy with the Kazakhstan train, about five thousand Chinese containers passed through Russia. Moreover, the cost of transporting one such container from Zabaikalsk to St. Petersburg is comparable to the cost of one transshipment through the ferry in the Caspian.

Experts behind all this ceremonial rhetoric do not see a detailed analysis of the economic viability of the new transport corridor. While in the course only common numbers. Western mass media, referring to representatives of the BTK member countries, argue that “if the line is fully operational in the early years, BTK will be able to transport more than 6 tons of cargo and 1 million passengers, and in 20 years - 17 million tons of cargo and 3 million passengers ".

With passengers, as they say, still "the trailer is not touched." Transport Minister Ahmed Arslan said that the first passenger train in the BTK will be sent no earlier than the second half of 2018. This topic is on the agenda. However, the main purpose of the new highway was still a more convenient and profitable route for the delivery of commodity cargo.

Kazakhstani staff showed significant technical problems of the highway. First of all, this is the known difference between the European railway track and the old Soviet one, established in modern Transcaucasia. These two types of rails converge at the Georgian Akhalkalaki station.

According to observers, the local railway workers spent too much time replacing the wheeled carts. This situation is unlikely to improve drastically in the future. And the point here is not only in staff development. The BTK infrastructure itself is not ready for the volumes that the Transcaucasian politicians, passionate about the process, are painting to society today.

According to Paata Tsagareishvili, director of the Center for the Study of the Transport Corridor (there is now such), it is necessary to create storage, packing and sorting facilities along the highway. Rolling stock must be provided with special cars for transportation of grain, millet, cotton, liquefied gas, etc. Finally, the road should be electrified on the Turkish side. This is the second after the ferry crossing “a narrow link of the main line”, which sharply reduces the speed of cargo movement.

It is clear that the solution of these issues requires additional funding. For what it is necessary to solve a simple “task of the first level” - to sign contracts for the transportation of goods and develop a uniform tariff policy. Only four countries joined this process - Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia. The rest are waiting for the appetites of the owners of BTK to match their interests and opportunities. And not only!

Georgian politicians and experts for this month have repeatedly stressed the priority of the political significance of the new highway over the economic. This, for example, in an interview with Voice of America, was explicitly stated by the vice-president of the Atlantic Council of Georgia, Batu Kutelia. He noted that “from a strategic point of view, the significance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project may to some extent exceed its economic importance.”

It seems that not all potential partners of the owners of BTK are ready to share with them their geopolitical goals. And the economic success of the new highway directly depends on this. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan exporters are preparing a second train with grain for shipment to Turkey. Other shippers have not filed an application for BTK yet.
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  1. andrewkor
    andrewkor 4 December 2017 10: 42 New
    +3
    Yes, the negative example of Ukraine in the search for ways to bypass Russia did not teach anything to the lovers of pseudo-independence. As a positive example of solving transport problems, I can cite the construction of the railway in Uzbekistan branches of Tedzhen-Serakhs, which connected the network of Turkmenistan with Iran as early as 1996, which gave direct access to the entire Central Asian region to the southern seas and beyond.
    1. Finches
      Finches 4 December 2017 11: 27 New
      +7
      Azerbaijan, back and forth, Turkey is a god with it, and Georgia is generally a banana republic! When one link from the project drops out, its efficiency drops by 50%! They will pay back this road for 50 years. They wanted to throw the Armenians - so the Armenians with Russia, they will not be fools, like the Ukrainians, everything will be more or less good with them!
    2. siberalt
      siberalt 4 December 2017 11: 41 New
      +2
      Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan want to make money on the transit of Chinese goods. But does China need this? Profitability has not been canceled.
  2. The Siberian barber
    The Siberian barber 4 December 2017 10: 42 New
    11
    At a loss to oneself, reducing "dependence" on Russia is the main trend in the post-Soviet space) A clear sign of the flawed thinking of the power "elites" of the "fraternal" republics. Inferiority complex, directly))
    1. AllXVahhaB
      AllXVahhaB 4 December 2017 14: 23 New
      +1
      Quote: The Siberian Barber
      A clear sign of the inferiority of the thinking of the power "elites" of the "fraternal" republics.

      It’s not “frostbite the evil of my grandfather,” they just get money for it. They are not interested in economic feasibility ...
  3. Spike Javelin Touvich
    Spike Javelin Touvich 4 December 2017 11: 02 New
    +3
    1. He was not financed by US and EU companies.
    at the request of the government of Armenia. because this road will increase isolation of Armenia and deprive it of its transit function forever.
    2. China has not sent a representative to the opening ceremony of the highway.
    because most of the industrial zone of Poti passed to the Chinese company. and this means that the Chinese have their projects and competition there.
    In any case, you have to wait for years. 30 will see if it will pay off.
    1. antivirus
      antivirus 4 December 2017 13: 49 New
      +1
      brilliantly
      about railway Zhuravka-Millerovo said 12 liters of payback.
      Transsiberian in the tropics.
      submarine in the steppes of Ukraine
      after 3 years they will sell at a cheap price for the United States or Europe-- for seed, they will need to be sold further.
      Independence and payback - not equality commercial successful enterprise - perspective for 10-20 years. if there is such a (secret) calculation - a flag in hand. otherwise the shaft in ... you shove it yourself. Softer - you will bite your elbows. THIS IS JUST A DEPENDENT LIFE WITHOUT DEPRESSION FROM RF-USSR.
      the walker will take the road, and the marketer always sits in an armchair.
    2. Sparkling wine - Dry
      Sparkling wine - Dry 4 December 2017 17: 10 New
      +2
      Quote: Spike Javelin Touvich
      1. He was not financed by US and EU companies.
      at the request of the government of Armenia. because this road will increase isolation of Armenia and deprive it of its transit function forever.

      Again, the Armenians are to blame. And how will exacerbate the isolation of Armenia? We then like this road, we will transport our cargo to Europe on it.
      Quote: Spike Javelin Touvich
      2. China has not sent a representative to the opening ceremony of the highway.
      because most of the industrial zone of Poti passed to the Chinese company. and this means that the Chinese have their projects and competition there.

      So it turns out, this road is not needed by the USA and the EU, China and Russia, but are the Armenians to blame?
    3. 406ppm2gv
      406ppm2gv 5 December 2017 21: 14 New
      0
      1. He was not financed by US and EU companies.
      at the request of the government of Armenia. because this road will increase isolation of Armenia and deprive it of its transit function forever.
      2. China has not sent a representative to the opening ceremony of the highway.
      because most of the industrial zone of Poti passed to the Chinese company. and this means that the Chinese have their projects and competition there.
      In any case, you have to wait for years. 30 will see if it will pay off.
      [b] [/ b] I know that Azerbaijan bought R-65 rails from Russia. But the author indicated that the railway was not electrified from the Turkish side. Without leaving my chair, I can say that it is not electrified from the Kazakh side either, it’s also a single-track section, approaches to the port. So if the single-track section has 45 pairs of trains, then this will be a happiness and how long will the trains be? Grain in containers will probably be more rational. Purely, if transportation by grain carriers, the tonnage load will be high. And we don’t know which rail lies on the Turkish side. As we were previously taught, the project should pay off in 7.5 years. And then there is investing and investing, so that in 30 years it will not pay off. So many transshipments on the way!
  4. rotmistr60
    rotmistr60 4 December 2017 11: 09 New
    +3
    during the time they were busy with the Kazakhstan train, about five thousand Chinese containers passed through Russia

    I think that comments are not required. Result on the face.
  5. Humpty
    Humpty 4 December 2017 11: 43 New
    +3
    How even Georgians want to cling to the transit of goods from China. No, what to produce and sell ourselves. The next wonderful transport artery can wait for the implementation of the project of a shipping channel from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf through the high mountain passes of Iran, which has already been discussed several times here.
    If the Silk Road existed in the past and was not just a beautiful metaphor, then because the Chinese did not know how to swim far and did not know geography even within China.
    1. captain
      captain 4 December 2017 12: 26 New
      +4
      I read the comments and concluded. Dear commentators spare other people's money. Yes, even if they cover all the Caucasus Mountains with dollars, on the contrary I’m happy.
  6. A.Kaledin
    A.Kaledin 4 December 2017 12: 48 New
    +3
    . How can Russia get around, go round, etc. ??? At least they looked at the map :)))
    No, well, the little things are possible where possible, but globally, in general terms, as 1/6 of the land on planet Earth you will bypass ??? :))
  7. Conductor
    Conductor 4 December 2017 13: 00 New
    +4
    Ndya, and if there is no Chinese transit, then what are you going to carry? Kazakhstan wheat goes mainly through the Russian Federation, part goes to China. Metals from Arcelor? or Kazakhmys products? So, too, China or the Russian Federation. Moreover, double transshipment of cargo in the Caspian. Wonder comrades.
    1. Paranoid50
      Paranoid50 4 December 2017 14: 56 New
      +2
      Quote: Conductor
      Wonder comrades.

      So, these are their problems. yes Oh, Kazakhstan is back. hi Have you unlocked VO?
  8. Conductor
    Conductor 4 December 2017 13: 02 New
    +1
    Thanks to the moderators and site administration.
  9. Altona
    Altona 4 December 2017 13: 36 New
    +3
    Russian transit is the most profitable, and in the summer also the Northern Sea Route, which also needs to be actively connected to transportation by dry cargo vessels and lighters. Waterways are the cheapest.
  10. Mih1974
    Mih1974 4 December 2017 14: 42 New
    +1
    In fact - the "achievement" a la Tribalta with their LNG terminal, "there is movement, there is no progress." tongue They wanted their way - well. built on your own and rejoice, but no one is obliged to pay extra money to you to amuse your vanity. As the Tribalts now don’t know how to make “expensive and rejoice” LNGs, and so these four have the same problems - no one has come across something on their way.
    Of course, I can remember Transib, but it was built by RI and it had both money and time to get "profit" then (it paid off during the Second World War and now it will probably be the first profit). Especially now Russia + Iran has begun to promote North-South, and this will further reduce meaningfully what is written in the article. By the way, the article does not mention at all that China is now very much looking at the North Sea route from our supply. good And with our Transib, the competitors have no chance at all. Moreover, the constant talk about high-speed roads that the Chinese propose to build in Russia finally “kick out” all the other competitors. Moreover, as everyone has seen the tricks of the "transit countries" on the example of Ukraine, no one wants to produce dozens of "critical points" when it is possible to pave the way through only one Russia. good
  11. Bakht
    Bakht 4 December 2017 15: 52 New
    +4
    Transport line is always a plus. But there is nothing to carry. This was known from the very beginning. In general, the frequent use of the term "silk road" is misleading. The Silk Road has never passed through the territory of northern Azerbaijan. Or through Iran (Persia) or north of the Caspian.
    The natural transportation route Azerbaijan needs is the North-South route for connecting the Russian Federation and Iran. All oil and gas pipelines to Europe are projects unnecessary to Azerbaijan. From this point of view, both the BTC and the Southern Gas Corridor are a waste of money. Although the Southern Gas Corridor may pay off in the future. But this is still in theory.
  12. Sergey824
    Sergey824 4 December 2017 16: 31 New
    0
    How I Like Kazakh "Brothers" Well, it seemed closer to my brother’s brother, but they still look like a wolf. And they buy military equipment on the side. There you have an ally.
  13. mariusdeayeraleone
    mariusdeayeraleone 4 December 2017 16: 45 New
    +2
    Quote: Spikes Javelin Touvich
    1. He was not financed by US and EU companies.
    at the request of the government of Armenia. because this road will increase isolation of Armenia and deprive it of its transit function forever.
    2. China has not sent a representative to the opening ceremony of the highway.
    because most of the industrial zone of Poti passed to the Chinese company. and this means that the Chinese have their projects and competition there.
    In any case, you have to wait for years. 30 will see if it will pay off.


    I do not agree with you. The Armenians have nothing to do with it, here our logistics are lame. We will see
    1. Sparkling wine - Dry
      Sparkling wine - Dry 4 December 2017 17: 27 New
      +1
      Quote: mariusdeayeraleone
      I do not agree with you. The Armenians have nothing to do with it, here our logistics are lame. We will see

      I would say here the aspiration of your president is limping with the help of xenophobia, or rather Armenianophobia, to maintain power in the country.
  14. polpot
    polpot 4 December 2017 20: 57 New
    0
    The main thing for our former compatriots is to show that they are not adults and can patrol Putin, maybe he will give money like Lukashenka, maybe the Americans will throw money for trolling, but over time this bothers the audience, and Putin doesn’t give it to Trump, and even more so to the Chinese.
    1. Bakht
      Bakht 4 December 2017 21: 50 New
      +4
      The funny thing is that if you ask a question, what does Putin have to do with this, if we are talking about the transport route that connects Azerbaijan and Turkey, then we will not hear an answer. We definitely won’t hear it clearly. What does Armenia have to do with space silence?
      I explain on the fingers. A high-speed railway connects Azerbaijan and Turkey. Of course, through Georgia. It’s not through the front line to pull it. So Armenia is naturally in flight. As with all pipelines.
      Or according to the Russians, no one should build anything because it will be "Putin trolling"?
      ---
      Minor clarification on the gas pipeline. Azerbaijan does not have gas for the Southern Gas Corridor. But the local Russians, who so famously notice everything and troll, do not know what to do if there are problems with the Turkish and Nordic streams? Although temporary, but there is no transit through Ukraine on December 31, 2018, is Northern and Turkish temporary, but blocked? How will Gazprom live and where will the Russian Federation get the currency from? Or go to bow to Poroshenko?
      Oh, miracle !!! Azerbaijan already has a finished gas pipeline. And Gazprom has already (!!!!) concluded an agreement with Azerbaijan on the supply of Russian gas for 1 billion cubic meters for 2018. No one thinks why Azerbaijan buys Russian gas if it plans to launch Shahdeniz-2018 in 2019-2?
      ----
      Hmm ... Putin is clearly smarter than the local scribblers. There is a gas pipeline, Azerbaijan’s gas will go through it, because Gazprom sold it and Azerbaijan bought it. What are the objections to Europe? They only welcome such a decision. Russia receives currency, Europe receives gas, Azerbaijan does what it loves and knows best. Resells the product. Everyone is happy.
      The same goes for the railway. There is a North-South highway, and there is a branch to Turkey and, in the long term, to Europe. This is just a fallback. But no one puts all their eggs in one basket.
      ----
      What does Armenia have to do with it, I can’t understand at all. Armenia is excluded from all (ALL) economic projects of the South Caucasus. Wanted to be exceptional? Receive and sign.
      ----
      These are all options for the future in the worst case scenario. Why am I against these projects? Yes, because Azerbaijan does not really need them and Azerbaijan should not have spent money. Whoever needs to build it. Ours wasted in vain.
      PS For analysis. Those who can think ....
      http://www.gazprom.ru/press/news/2017/november/ar
      ticle381879 /
  15. mariusdeayeraleone
    mariusdeayeraleone 4 December 2017 21: 21 New
    +1
    Quote: Brut
    Quote: mariusdeayeraleone
    I do not agree with you. The Armenians have nothing to do with it, here our logistics are lame. We will see


    I would say that your president’s help is limping
    Xenophobia, or rather Armenianophobia, to maintain power in the country.


    Dear, there are 3 forces in the world, led by Russia. Dark forces, led by the United States. And neutral forces (thinking just about their own benefit) are Iran, China and France, and so on. All these forces clash in our Caucasus, they are Azerbaijan. as a state, it’s not necessary, but the most unique in the other .... is that Armenians and Jews are present in all 3 forces, and Azarov is pulled with their hands. Here and Azars think how to poison them, from there such projects arise))))
  16. Valery Saitov
    Valery Saitov 5 December 2017 09: 04 New
    0
    China did not even consider this transit since there’s a lot of extra mouths (respectively, time). And through Russia it’s 5 times easier, the Chinese are traders, not politicians.