TBY talks to Ziya Mammadov, Minister of Transport, on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport plan, and the new Intelligent Transport Management Center.
TBY What investments have been made in Azerbaijan’s transport network over 2011?
ZIYA MAMMADOV The largest investments over the last year have been the development of the new Baku International Sea Trade Port and the Baku-Alat highway, as well as the purchase of new large and medium-capacity buses and 500 new “London taxis.” In addition, we created 55.3 kilometers of railway, upgraded the locomotive fleet, and purchased seven electric and diesel units. In 2011, AZN112.6 million was spent on railway development. Furthermore, 203.5 million tons of freight were transported, 22.1 million tons of cargo were carried by rail, 109.8 million tons were transported by road, and 1.5 billion passengers were transported. During 2011, AZN1.6 billion was allocated for the maintenance of 668.7 kilometers of roads. As part of an action plan on the improvement of the transport system in Baku for the 2008-2013 period, we constructed 17 new road junctions and 75 pedestrian passageways, and repaired hundreds of kilometers of existing roads.
What is the status of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project?
In 2011, work on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project successfully continued, focusing on the construction of the Akhalkalak-Kartsakhi segment, near the Turkish border. This stretch contains a 4.2-kilometer-long tunnel and a station. At the same time, we continued to work on the reconstruction of the Akhalkalak-Marabda segment, which stretches for 153 kilometers. In 2012, an important year for the development of the project, we are aiming to increase the pace of work, which is being carried out according to the planned schedule.
How will the development of the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) further position Azerbaijan as a hub between East and West?
The participation of Azerbaijan in the TRACECA program is of strategic importance for our country to strengthen and expand economic relations with European countries, and further integrate our country and economy with the world. It is a great opportunity to put Azerbaijan on the map as one of the main transport hubs between East and West. We have already implemented several projects within the framework of the TRACECA program, such as transport management training and a legal and regulatory framework. Further projects have included the application of a tariff policy, the streamlining of procedures at border checkpoints, the restoration of railway lines, and other related technical assistance and investment-orientated initiatives. The TRACECA project has contributed to an increase in the number of basic multilateral internal and transnational transport agreements between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkey. Our country is at a crossroads between North and South, and East and West, and the transport infrastructure projects that we are developing within the TRACECA program will increase the flow of cargo through the corridor.
Azerbaijan recently inaugurated its Intelligent Transport Management Center, the first of its kind in the CIS region. What are the benefits of such technology?
The implementation of a new Intelligent Transport Management System started back in 2007, when President Ilham Aliyev announced the project. Since 2009 we have been implementing different types of measures, such as installing cameras in several parts of Baku, as well as onboard equipment in buses and terminals. The Intelligent Transport Management Center is the new central operating base for the traffic management system, enabling us to collect all types of current information from videos to analyze situations, provide instructions, and implement further system-controlled equipment transferred to the field. At the same time, information about the current status of the roads can be delivered to drivers via mobile phones, electronic digital boards, and TV and radio stations. The center also boasts the largest wall monitor system, at 5-meters high and 24-meters wide. The new transport management center will help us optimize the decision-making process, ensuring the implementation of adopted measures and the transfer of information on the system to the relevant departments, collecting a wide range of data from more than 1,612 streets and avenues and 2,096 buses, through 378 units of specialized equipment and 320 kilometers of fiber-optic cables. The deployment of new functional equipment on the roads will continue until mid-2012, and we will keep installing controls at intersections and junctions throughout Baku.
Azerbaijan has announced the future introduction of a single payment card for public transport. What will the impact be?
The e-card payment system will allow passengers to use a single card for all types of public transport. We are also working on the introduction of payment and information terminals that will give a clear understanding to passengers of the optimal routes for all kinds of transport, and facilitate the purchase of tickets too. Our aim is also to boost payments by plastic card within the public transport system; a card that will allow passengers to check their balance, and in the future we can’t rule out developing further uses for these cards outside of the transport system.
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