THE THIN BLACK LINE

Azerbaijan 2012 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Javid Gurbanov, Chairman of Azeryolservis and Deputy in the Azerbaijan National Assembly, on Azerbaijan's road network, safety issues, and joint projects to develop the international transport network.

Javid Gurbanov
BIOGRAPHY
Javid Gurbanov graduated from the Azerbaijan Civil Engineers Institute in 1985, and has held a number of public positions, including at the Ministry of Agriculture, Azeraytoyol, and Avtoarzagnagliyyat. In 1995 he began to work for Azerbaijan State Railways in the Logistics Department, and from 1997 until 2001 served as the Chairman of Azerdamiryolservis, and later Yolnagliyyatservis. He is currently the Chairman of Azeryolservis.

What is Azeryolservis' background story, and how does it fit into the rapid development of Azerbaijan's road transport infrastructure?

In recent years, the scale of road construction has increased, as has overall capacity. This expansion required a new organization to manage the process. Therefore, Azeryolservis was established in 2007 under the Ministry of Transport. Our organization has been in charge of the construction of roads, bridges, road junctions, and also the repair, reconstruction, and maintenance of such infrastructure. At the same time, and as part of our activities, Azeryolservis has promoted international cooperation in the field of traffic and road management, attending many international conferences and seminars, taking an active role in the International Road Federation (IRF), the Intergovernmental Road Council, the CIS, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESKAP), and the Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), where discussions have been held on projects and activities related to the country's economic development, and the improvement of international transport corridor infrastructure.

What are some of the key national projects Azeryolservis has been involved in?

Since 2004, when President Ilham Aliyev assumed power, 5,711 kilometers of roads have been rebuilt and repaired. Of these, about 2,148 kilometers are highways or roads of relevant importance within the national network such as the Baku-Alat and Baku-Guba highways, which have improved the road connections with our neighbors Georgia and Russia. Over the years, we have also improved access to Heydar Aliyev International Airport. In addition, during this period, we have finished the construction of 152 new bridges and tunnels, 25 new road junctions, and 38 pedestrian passages in Baku. In this regard, we are building six new road junctions and nine more pedestrian passages in the capital city, with special attention on preparing Baku for Eurovision 2012. Such infrastructure within the city will facilitate the movement of pedestrians. Finally, I would like to mention that Azeryolservis has actively contributed to the improvement of existing roads through the application of the most modern technology and materials, with special attention paid to the reconstruction works carried out on the M-2 highway, where the high-quality materials and techniques we used enabled us to lay an asphalt-concrete cap layer at the bottom to prevent the formation of cracks in the road. We have sought international expertise in the field from Turkish, German, Japanese, Italian, US, Chinese, Swedish, Belarusian, and Russian companies providing us with know-how and mutual cooperation. Azeryolservis has significantly contributed to strengthening Azerbaijan's material and technical base over the last eight years.

How has Azerbaijan's road network been integrated into international transport corridors?

Azerbaijan is in a geostrategic position, sitting at the center of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia and North-South international transport corridors, which has extensively contributed to the development of the country's transport capacity. For example, 67.9% of the road network in Azerbaijan is currently in compliance with international standards. At the same time, Azerbaijan's geographical location conceals important challenges; we need to constantly work on leveraging the road network's capacity and adapt it to international standards. Government plans have guided the country's development in this field, stating the priorities, improving the efficiency of modern transportation, and developing communications, management, and services, improving the quality of the roads, reducing the costs of transportation, and expanding international cooperation to meet international requirements. In addition to what we have achieved, the government plans for the construction and repair of 9,600 kilometers of roads by 2015. The development of projects leading to international integration, in particular international transport corridors, will be a priority in the next few years. In this regard, the second stage of the Silk Route project, which passes through Azerbaijan, is underway. The Silk Route will play a key role in leveraging Azerbaijan's road cargo transport capacity.

How has Azeryolservis contributed to improving road safety?

Road safety is a major challenge and requires daily attention. In particular, due to the very rapid growth in the number of vehicles on the roads in recent years, statistics show that the majority of road accidents take place on highways and urban roads. Although we have been working on building up a modern road network—improving road conditions and safety—the driving culture in the country has yet to be strengthened. Over the years we have increased the presence of road signs and indicators. The priorities for the future will be traffic campaigns with the Ministry of Internal Affairs to promote the use of seat belts, facilitate road emergency medical services, and develop an intelligent traffic management center, which was inaugurated by President Ilham Aliyev in late 2011. In this regard, and linked to the organization of Eurovision 2012, I would like to add that the government has developed an action plan with six major points in order to facilitate the movement of vehicles and people around the city of Baku during the event, building many more underground passages, carrying out reconstruction works on main junctions and roads, and raising awareness of road safety and traffic problems. The Traffic Police Department, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and its subordinated institutions, as well as specialists from the Ministry of Transport, and our company as well, are implementing campaigns on national TV channels, newspapers, and magazines in order to raise awareness among Azerbaijani drivers of the increase in the number of road traffic accidents, in particular the increasing number of accidents resulting in death.

Both the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have put road and transport investment at the top of their agendas. How closely do you work with such institutions?

Both institutions have contributed to the development of Azerbaijan's road network for a long time. In this regard, we have carried out joint projects with the EBRD, such as sections of the Silk Road. There are also several projects lined up for 2012, including the 166-kilometer Mingachevir-Bahramtepe road, and the 99.2-kilometer Kurdamir-Ujar-Yevlakh state highway. We also work with the ADB, which has financed projects for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of road infrastructure such as the East-West international transport corridor, the Silk Route, the Ganja Ring Road, and the construction of part of the Baku-Alat highway. We are currently developing the reconstruction of the Masalli-Astara state highway and the construction of a new bridge over the Kura River.