Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey have inaugurated the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) rail project linking Europe and Asia at the new Port of Baku in Alat, Azerbaijan.

The 846km-long rail line has been designed to strategically link the three countries and is slated to play a major role in the Middle Corridor as part of the greater One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

The majority of the BTK railway has been upgraded as part of the development, while an additional 109km-long segment running from Georgia (30km) into Turkey (79km) has also been constructed.

BTK is expected to create new opportunities for the transhipment of cargo from China and the Far East to the Mediterranean region and Europe via a shorter and faster land route, which will take an estimated 14 to 18 days to travel in its entirety.

“The current development forms part of Aliyev’s wider strategy to diversify Azerbaijan’s oil-rich economy and transform it into a Eurasian trade and logistics hub.”

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said: “The BTK is the shortest and most reliable route connecting Europe with Asia.

“It’s planned to carry five million tonnes of cargo in the first stage and 17 million tonnes in the next stage.”

The inauguration saw a freight train arrive at the new Port of Baku in Alat after travelling 2,846km from north-western Kazakhstan and crossing the Caspian Sea on a rail ferry.

The current development forms part of Aliyev’s wider strategy to diversify Azerbaijan’s oil-rich economy and transform it into a Eurasian trade and logistics hub.

In addition, the strategy is set to involve the completion of the first phase of the new Port of Baku in future, as well as the launch of the Alat Free Trade Zone next year.