New rail freight route connecting Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan
Negotiations are underway over the creation of a new rail freight route connecting the south of Asia to the north of Europe through the territories of Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. This was reported by several media outlets. Kheyrulla Humbatov, Head of the Department for Azerbaijan Railways at the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) was quoted as speaking of a new alternative route on the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
The INSTC is a multimode 7,200 kilometer-long network of rail, ship and road routes for transporting freight between India, Iran, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. The role of Turkmenistan on this network has been limited until recently, when various efforts were made by participating members to include the country. Last week, an agreement was signed between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan detailing rail and sea freight operations, reported Azerbaijan Railways.
Further to the development of freight traffic along the north-south corridor, test runs have been carried out transporting freight from Bandar Abbas to Moscow in 14 days, while a dry run was conducted a few months ago between India, Iran and Russia. Moreover, a uniform tariff policy is drafted to stimulate safe and rapid transportation of freight on the south-west offshoot of the north-south corridor, connecting Iran, Azerbaijan, the Black Sea and Europe.
The main objective of the INSTC is to provide an alternative to the traditional routes carried out by sea through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. It is anticipated that in the future 10 million tonnes of freight will be transported within the network. While it is said to complement China’s One Belt – One Road in that it links southern Asia to the north of Europe whereas the Silk Road connects east and west, the south-west offshoot of the North–South Transport Corridor provides India an alternative route into Europe.