Another leap forward on the new Silk Road


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Another leap forward on the new Silk Road

  1. 1. TRANSPORT > GEORGIAAnotherleapforwardon the new Silk RoadOnce it is upgraded,transit, trade and tourism will www.enpi-info.euflow. The old highway between Tbilisiand Rustavi causes frequent congestion and N Trucks on the Tbilisi-Rustavi section of the Tbilisi-Red Bridgesafety concerns both for commuters and long-distance travellers highway.from Azerbaijan and Armenia to Georgia’s Black Sea ports or Turkey, andvice versa. A new project – part of the EU supported internationaltransport programme TRACECA, or the New Silk Road – will upgradethe road to internationals standards, and ease the pain.Text and photos by Maia Edilashvili Tbilisi – “This road is very congested and accidents are frequent,” says Zurab Tval- mikhelashvili, driver of a Tbilisi-Rustavi mini bus. Though the road’s capacity is only 9,000 vehicles, approximately 12,000 automobiles are travelling every day on the Tbilisi-Red Bridge highway, which connects Georgia with the borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Due to the poor conditions of the 22km-long Tbilisi-Rustavi section of the East-West highway, driving is allowed at a maximum speed of 80 km/h.This publication does To address the problem, the Georgian government is working on a project, whichnot represent the envisions construction of a first category road with a design speed of 120 km/hofficial view of the EC and four lanes. “Once the highway has been modernized, its capacityor the EU institutions.The EC accepts no will reach 44,000 automobiles per day,” says Mamuka Vatsadze, at the ENPI Info Centre – Feature no. 41responsibility or liability time Head of Transport Policy Department at the Ministry of Regional This is a series of features onwhatsoever with regard Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, who has since become projects funded by the EU’s Regionalto its content. Programme, prepared by journalists Deputy Minister at the same Ministry. and photographers on the ground or the ENPI Info Centre. © 2010 ENPI Info Centre / EU
  2. 2. Another leap forward on the new Silk Road p. 2ENPI Info Centre – Feature no. 41 A comfortable drive to develop transit, trade and tourism Today, packed minibuses commuting between Tbilisi and Rustavi are “The new road seen everywhere, since many Rustavi residents work or study in Tbilisi. In will increase reverse, Rustavi hosts factories and business centres, having close rela- safety and cut tions with Tbilisi-based partners, which increases demand for this direc- travelling time, tion. “The city of Rustavi has become part of the urban agglomeration making Rustavi of the capital and has very strong economic ties with it,” explains Giorgi an integral part Kiziria, coordinator of the ADB. “The new road,” he says, “will increase of Tbilisi” safety and cut travelling time, making Rustavi an integral part of Tbilisi.”N Mamuka Vatsadze The comfortable drive to the bordering countries and beyond will be another ad- vantage. All this, the government hopes, will help develop transit, trade and tour- ism in the region, and enhance competitiveness of the TRACECA corridor. “In fact,” continues Kiziria, “this road provides an important link to the neighbouring states of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as with the central Asian countries, connecting them to Georgia’s mainland and the Black Sea Ports, thus impacting significantly“This road on their trade portion.”providesimportant links TRACECA: promoting integration into the global economyto Armenia and Signed in 1998, and backed by the European Union, TRACECA – the Transport Cor-Azerbaijan as ridor Europe – Caucasus – Asia, or the New Silk Road – is an interstate programmewell as with the aimed at supporting political and economic development in Black Sea Region,central Asian Caucasus and Central Asia through improvement of international transport –countries, ports, railways and roads. This is expected to boost regional trade and integrationconnecting them of member states’ economies into the world markets. Actually, the idea is to re-to Georgia’s store the ancient route, carrying caravans from China and India across the Caspianmainland and the Sea via Georgia to the Black Sea and then via the Bosporus to the MediterraneanBlack Sea Ports” countries as early as the 4th century BC. The ambitions European Union-backed programme unites Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank (WB), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Asia Development Bank have spent heavily on TRACECA projects. One of the achievements of the programme is a closer cooperation among governments and transport sector stakeholders: deals have been reached to keep transit fees at competitive levels, and customs procedures simplified. Intensive reconstruction work on the East-West Highway The increased cargo traffic on the TRACECA corridor shows growing interest in this route as the shortest, cheapest and potentially fastest land link for east-west traffic. According to the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, in 2009 an average 200,000 trucks crossed Georgia’s borders from both directions every day, up from 50,000 trucks in 2003. This impressive growth has been a result of intensive reconstruction works fi- N Giorgi Kiziria nanced by the World Bank along Geor- gia’s East-West Highway, increasing it from two to four lanes. The works have been underway since 2006 and some of the sections are already in opera- tion. “The construction works along the East-West Highway, have already borne fruits,” says Vatsadze. “This is in line with TRACECA’s long-term strategy as well as
  3. 3. Another leap forward on the new Silk Road p. 3ENPI Info Centre – Feature no. 41 with the European Union’s vision towards the South Caucasus – to make TRACECA part of European transport links.” Private businesses are also getting the taste of that fruit. “Infrastructure is improv- ing… Conditions are 1000% far better than ten years ago,” notes Steve Pipe, Branch “In 2009 an Manager at FH Bertling Ltd Georgia, which specializes in project forwarding for average 200,000 construction and oil and gas companies to Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uz- trucks crossed bekistan and beyond. Bertling has 150 offices worldwide and has been operating Georgia’s borders in Georgia since 1998. According to Pipe, for Georgia as a transit country, modern from both roads and bridges are essential. Georgia’s “good” customs system and “no corrup- directions daily:N The overcrowded Tbilisi- they were justRustavi section of the Tbilisi-Red tion” environment, he underlines, also play a role.Bridge highway. Construction works on the Tbilisi-Rustavi section are expected to start this year in 50,000 in 2003”. the summer time, and will be completed by 2012. Currently, a detailed design is being developed for the road, and simul- taneously, talks are underway with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – which is financing the reconstruction – to nego- tiate on the loan terms. The exact amount of the loan will be known only after the final design is done.Transport dialogue and networks interoperability(TRACECA)Facilitates regional cooperation in the field of transport through capacity building and trainingmeasures, as well as the development of transport forecasts and investment countries ObjectiveArmenia, Azerbaijan, The project aims to facilitate regional cooperation in the field of transport, through capacity building andGeorgia, Moldova, training measures, the development of transport forecasts and investment appraisals in the region coveredUkraine, Kazakhstan, by the EU-funded TRACECA programme. It also promotes effective regional transport dialogue among theKyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Partner Countries, as well as between them and the EU.Uzbekistan Find out moreTimeframe TRACECA programme web site The ENPI Info Centre fiche on the TRACECA programme The Silk Road of the 21st Century€ 6.576 million The ENPI Info Centre is an EU-funded Regional Information and Communication project highlighting the partnership between the EU and Neighbouring countries. The project isENPI info centre managed by Action Global Communications.