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Все записи | Экономика
среда, июнь 18, 2008

Baku, Tehran and Moscow talk over stalling transport project

 

Representatives of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia gathered in Baku on Tuesday to explore ways of speeding up the North-South transport corridor project – a major route to link Asia and Europe that has been delayed in the past years.

An Iranian official has offered establishing an international consortium – a key legal aspect of the project realization which is high on agenda of the trilateral taskforce.

“This would speed up commissioning of the route earmarked to link the railway networks of China and India with that of Europe,” said the executive of Iran’s railway administration Mahmudreza Keymanish who attended the meeting of experts. “If we succeed in establishing it, we will eliminate all problems in the way of launching construction of a section that will link China and India with Europe through the territories of Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.”

Keymanish said creating the consortium would become “the most important task in the short term” for the railway administrations of the three countries.

As for long-term prospects, the Iranian expert said they covered building rail lines from Kazvin to the town of Astara on the Azeri-Iranian border through Resht in his country’s territory, to be further linked with Astara, Azerbaijan.

The agreement on the North-South project was signed in St. Petersburg by Russia, Iran, India and Oman in 2001. Azerbaijan joined the project in 2005. The deal covers all types of transport including railways, roads, maritime and air links. The $400 million project also envisions creating a bridge for trade between Asia and Europe.

Deputy chief of the Azerbaijan State Railway Office, Intigam Huseynov, said building a rail line within the North-South project was one of the priorities in the development of the country’s railways.

“We clearly see the advantages of this corridor both for carriers and for cargo owners, and hope for a speedy implementation of the Kazvin-Resht-Astara railway project,” he told the taskforce meeting.

Huseynov said the experts would hear a report by Iranian representatives on progress in the construction operations in the neighboring country’s territory. Moreover, Russia’s proposals on a concept envisioning joint efforts to accelerate the project will be discussed.

The taskforce will wrap up its meeting on Thursday with the signing of a final protocol.

Deputy head on strategic development of the Russian Railways joint-stock company, Sergey Stolyarov, told the press that the three countries’ representatives would focus on key steps that need to be taken to enforce the previously-reached agreements.

“We would like for work within this framework to proceed systematically both in the Iranian and Azerbaijani territories. It is a prospective route destined for cargo transportation, and the Russian side has to directly participate in the project -- including investments in construction, development of the feasibility study and operations under the project. We are ready to capitalize on the potential of our project institutions and to implement this project jointly with all the other sides involved.”

According to Stolyarov, “lack of coordination by the sides” is the main factor hampering implementation of the North-South project. He said prospects of the corridor are immense, as considerable volumes of consignments that could go through it are currently either transported bypassing the route or are not economically viable due to the absence of an efficient over-ground route.

Most of the construction work under the transport corridor project will be carried out in the Iranian territory. A 8 km rail line will be further laid to connect to Azerbaijan’s railway network. Moreover, four rail lines with the length of 1,050 each are to be built in Azerbaijan. A special passage for railway carriages and a 101-meter railway overpass above the Astarachay river on the border will be constructed as well.

The North-South project will allow to transport 5-7 million tons of cargo, with the figure to be brought to 20 million tons in the future. Azerbaijani experts say the

country’s revenues from the transportation of consignments through the corridor will amount to 30-40 million manats (up to $48 million). The route will facilitate the delivery of transit consignments of the Asia Pacific region and the Persian Gulf. Transportation of cargo by the railway will cost up to 15% less than that via the Suez Canal.*

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