New Silk Road – Tbilisi to Kars line now open

A NEW connection between Central Asia and Europe opened on October 30 when the 849km-long Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway opened.

Stadler presented the first of the sleepers they are building for Azerbaijani operator ADY at the Innotrans trade fair in Berlin in September 2016. KEITH FENDER

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.

ADY Class AZ4A loco AZ4A 0001 outside the Alstom plant in Belfort on standard gauge transporter skates on October 9. ALSTOM/ ARNAUD FEVRIER

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.

Read more in December’s issue of The RM – on sale now!

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