A NEW connection between Central Asia and Europe opened on October 30 when the 849km-long Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway opened.
The new 1435mm-gauge section of line comprises 76kms, connecting the Turkish network with Kartsakhi in Georgia via a 4.4km-long tunnel under the mountainous border itself, and a further 29km of 1,435mm-gauge line in Georgia to connect at Akhalkalaki (Georgia) with a previously built (mid-1980s), but out of use, 153km 1,520mm-gauge branch line to Marabda, 23km south of Tbilisi.
From there the ‘new’ line uses a route to Tbilisi, and the classic Baku to Tbilisi line, which opened originally in 1883 and has been modernised.
An automatic gauge changer has been built at Akhalkalaki, near the Turkish border, to permit passenger trains with modern gauge changeable axles to switch gauges without the need to swap bogies.
For freight, either containers will be transhipped or in some cases bogies changed on freight wagons.
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