31.10.17

THE CAPTURE OF KARS.

When the Tsar's troops march in, Modest Mussorgsky writes a commemorative overture.

It's less dramatic when it's trains arriving in Uzbekistan to provide a southerly alternative to China's Silk Road Railroad.
The 849 km [527 mi] BTK [Baku, Azerbaijan - Tblisi, Georgia, Kars, Turkey] programme is central to plans to create a rail corridor from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey. It involved upgrading infrastructure in Azerbaijan and Georgia, rehabilitating 153 km [95 mi] of unused 1 520mm [Soviet 5 foot] gauge line from Marabda to a break-of-gauge facility at Akhalkalaki, and building 110 km [68 mi] of 1 435 mm [standard] gauge line to Kars via a 4·4 km [2.7 mi] tunnel under the Georgia-Turkey border at Kartsakhi.

This completes the missing link between Georgia and Turkey, replacing a route through Armenia which has been out of use since the crossing between Turkey and Armenia was closed in 1993.
Yes, there is a break of gauge and a transloading on this line, which runs through former Tsarist lands, as is the case on the Silk Road Railroad.


The closed line is to the south.

Although the railroad appears to be a way for Turkey and a number of the former Soviet republics to exchange cargo without dealing with Armenia, the connection is also a play for the China to Europe traffic.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan said the BTK railway had become a reality because of the friendship of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia. He said shipments from China would be able to reach Europe in 15 days using the BTK route, and the initial capacity of 6·5 million tonnes of freight and 1 million passengers per year was expected to increase to 17 million tonnes and 3 million passengers per year in 2034.
That's time-competitive with the Silk Road Railroad. I wonder if that new tunnel is tall enough for double-stacks, as much of this railroad is currently diesel hauled.

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