A MOVING STORY

Azerbaijan 2014 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ziya Mammadov, Minister of Transport, on the comprehensive improvements being made to Azerbaijan's transport sector in pursuit of the Azerbaijan 2020 development concept.

Ziya Mammadov
BIOGRAPHY
Ziya Mammadov has had a long career in the railway business, beginning with his time at Azerbaijan State Railways. Working his way up, he occupied various positions including the Assistant Director of Human Resources at the Bilajary Locomotive Department and Substitute Director at the Davachi Depot. Later in his career, he was appointed Chairman of the Azerbaijan State Railway Administration and served in the position until 2002, when he became the Minister of Transport.

What were the main advances in transportation and infrastructure development made over 2013?

The achievements made in all other spheres of life in the Republic of Azerbaijan have also benefited the transport sector. Effective measures continued in 2013 to further improve the activities of the sector. According to the state programs and action plans approved by the relevant orders of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, specific measures have been taken to develop all spheres of the transport sector. In an effort to create a modern national transport system, simplify transportation, ensure safety, meet the overall demand for quality transport services, and, in general, improve the level of transportation services, the implementation of projects in this sector has been accelerated. The reconstruction of railways and roads of national and local importance, the modernization of existing road infrastructure, the establishment of new infrastructure facilities, the development of international transport corridors passing through the territory of Azerbaijan, the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, the new Baku international trade seaport and other large-scale initiatives, the modernization of the transport system in Baku, the renewal of vehicle fleet, and other similar activities have contributed to the comprehensive development of the transport sector. In addition to the commodities transported through pipelines in 2013, a total of 160 million tons of cargo was transported in the road transport sector, which is 4.3% above the 2012 figure. Meanwhile, passenger transportation has increased by 6.7%. The railway network accounted for 23.2 million tons, maritime for 11.8 million tons, and road vehicles for 125 million tons. Loading and offloading operations involving 12.4 million tons were carried out at ports, while the share of international transportation reached 10.5 million tons for the year. A total of 1.5 million passengers were transported by automobiles, 2.4 million by railway, and 1.7 million by air.

As a point of connection and passage between Asia and Europe and an important link on routes such as TRACECA and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), how do you expect Azerbaijan's importance to East-West relations to increase over the coming years?

The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which plays a major role in the development of the region and the whole of Europe alongside the exiting oil and gas pipelines, connects East with West and is expected to become a new commercial junction in Eurasia. With development in full swing, the upper structure on an 18.6-kilometer stretch of the 29-kilometer Akhalkalaki-Turkish border section has already been constructed, with a new road to the Turkish border to be built before the end of this year. A 2.2-kilometer stretch of the 4.2-kilometer tunnel on the Turkish-Georgian border has been built in Turkey and a 200-meter section in Georgia. Although the difficult terrain and severe weather conditions on Turkish and Georgian territory have caused slight delays to the project schedule, construction will be completed by the end of 2014. In the first 11 months of 2013, a total of 53.6 million tons of cargo was transported along the Europe-Caucasus-Asia international transport corridor. Of this, 19.3 million tons were carried by railway, 9.4 million tons by sea, and 24.9 million tons by automobiles. Transit goods transported along the corridor accounted for 13.4 million tons. Of those transited goods, 6 million tons were carried by railway and 7.4 million tons by maritime transport.

The construction of the new Baku Shipyard was recently completed. What will this development mean for maritime transport in Azerbaijan?

The volume of maritime freight traffic has declined by 5.7% to 11.8 million tons in comparison with the previous year. The number of transported passengers was 14,300, while freight turnover reached 4,698.2 million ton-kilometers and passenger turnover 5.2 million passenger-kilometers. Certain works were realized to renew and expand the capacity of the Caspian Shipping Company's fleet. Its shipyard was also inaugurated in a ceremony on March 4, 2013 and the plant is now in operation. The construction of the biggest and most sophisticated international trade port in the Caspian basin is underway in Alat, near Baku. Dredging work has already been completed on an area of 7.5 kilometers in length, with a 6.6 meter draft, and 165 meter width, including the canal and maneuvering area. Construction work is now in progress on the ground. The design of the road infrastructure linking the port to the highway and construction of a railway line to the port has virtually been finalized. Landfill and pump drainage work is currently underway at the port's cargo terminal. The excavation of 1,500-mm pits, the construction of an enclosure, and piling activities are ongoing at the ferryboat terminal of the port. Phase I of the port, including the ferryboat terminal, is scheduled for completion in 2014, and a total of AZN109.4 million has been invested in the project. The completion of all these activities on this segment of the East-West corridor will transform Azerbaijan into a major transit and logistical center.

“ The construction of the biggest and most sophisticated international trade port in the Caspian basin is underway in Alat, near Baku. "

How crucial is the development of Azerbaijan Airlines and Heydar Aliyev Airport to Azerbaijan's status as a transport hub?

The volume of cargo carried by air has doubled compared to last year's figure to reach 121,700 tons. Passenger transportation by air has also increased by 6.2% to 1.7 million people. Cargo and passenger turnover made up 44,195 million ton-kilometers and 2,598.4 million passenger-kilometers, respectively. In an effort to modernize air transport infrastructure, Azerbaijan Airlines has purchased four Embraer 190 and two Embraer 170 passenger aircraft and continued the construction of a new terminal building at Heydar Aliyev International Airport. In addition, the Yevlakh Airport has been re-commissioned after a major overhaul, while the area surrounding the airport has been landscaped and a car park built. Continuing the policy of infrastructure modernization, a new building at the air traffic control center was commissioned at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport on October 2, 2013. The construction of the new airport terminal building is close to completion. This will make the Heydar Aliyev International Airport one of the most sophisticated in the world.

What are the main initiatives the Ministry is set to undertake in 2014?

The Azerbaijan 2020 development concept, which was approved by decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, dated December 29, 2012, envisages the further modernization of the country's transport, transit, and logistical infrastructure, the sustainable development of the country's regions, the effective management of local and international transportation, the integration of the country's transport system into that of the wider world, the improvement of transportation services provided to the population, and the application of state-of-the-art technologies in the system of payment on public transport. With this in mind, an action plan regarding the development of the system of automobile transport in the Republic of Azerbaijan has been prepared. The Ministry of Transport is now receiving feedback from other government ministries regarding the proposed action plan. Additionally, an action plan on road transport infrastructure has been approved in order to ensure the smooth and safe operation of public transport and address other organizational matters ahead of the inaugural European Games due to be held in Baku in 2015. This action plan covers the operation of highways, the intelligent transport management system, and the railway network. In the time remaining before the European Games, the Tbilisi, Babak, and Ziya Bunyadov avenues are to be reconstructed, and a new road is to be built to the Aquatic Palace, while the stretch of Mikayil Aliyev Street from Koroglu underground station to Babak Avenue is to be overhauled. The entire work on the streets and avenues adjacent to the venues of the Games are scheduled for completion by May 1, 2015. The section of the plan relating to the intelligent transport management system dictates that Wi-Fi systems will be installed at bus stops in Baku in 2014 and in 1Q2015, vehicles carrying visiting delegations will be equipped with GPS systems, while special shuttle services will be organized between the Heydar Aliyev Airport, the Olympic village, and other activity venues of the Games. Measures will also be taken to limit daylight construction and reconstruction activities in Baku, while the working hours of bus services in Baku will be extended to 2.00 am for the entire duration of the Games.