A key component of the OBOR initiative has finally been completed via a 515 mile stretch of rail line which has been officially opened which will connect Asia and Europe through the Caucasus, a further step in the modernization of the Eurasian transport networks.
Plans for the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) rail link preceded the OBOR Initiative, but the “Middle Corridor” route through Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia perfectly dovetails into the OBOR initiative with increased regional connectivity and economic growth through infrastructure investment. The link was inaugurated in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, which is fast developing into a trade and logistics hub thanks to its location as a port on the Caspian Sea.
Freight trains can now travel from China through Kazakhstan, arriving at the New Baku Port after crossing the Caspian Sea on a rail ferry to be loaded onto the BTK and journey onward to Europe through Georgia and Turkey. The BTK line, which is expected to halve journey times from China to Turkey to 15 days, is undoubtedly the lynchpin between the European and Asian transport corridors, as well as being the shortest and most reliable route connecting Europe to Asia. The railway line will have the capacity to transport one million passengers annually and 6.5 million tons of freight initially, with significant increases to those figures expected in the future.
Whilst the failed Turkish 2016 coup was seen as the catalyst for their rotation East, the fact that China signed an MOU on the alignment of the OBOR initiative with Turkey’s corridor two years ago is indicative that this process was already underway. The Western backed coup merely accelerated that process for obvious reasons. The creation of the economic corridors that incorporate the Caucasus and the Central Asian states via the Caspian Sea is another key development of the OBOR initiative and is seen as the final piece in the jigsaw to connect Beijing to Lisbon in Portugal which was always the intended goal of the OBOR.