Azerbaijan has a railroad and it
plays an important role in the country.
Heydar Aliyev

Beginning from the second half of the 20th century the railway did not only serve the dynamically developing economics of the country but also carried out the transit cargoes to the neighbor countries.

It should be noted that in the early 1990 the State Rail road of Azerbaijan transported big volumes of cargoes. At that time the volumes of cargo turnover exceeded 40 billion tons and the volume of transportation amounted to 100 million tons a year. All the spheres of the State Railway of Azerbaijan is equipped with automated and telemechanical systems and devices. The main roads extend to 2944.3 kilometers including 2115.7 kilometers of operated roads with 806.3 duel-track roads. The overall operating length of the road totals 1269.5 kilometers and its 60% part is equipped with electric and 1650 kilometers with automated signal systems.

The early 1990s were a hard period for the railway and for the entire economics of the country. The cut off the previous economic relations with other countries had a negative impact on the work of the railroad. That was the period characterized with the sharp reduction in the transportation volume and the deterioration of the financial and economic state of the road. Azerbaijan's involvement into the conflict over Nagorny Garabagh also affected the situation. The movement of carriages by the railway communicating the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan was suspended at the Mehri section by Armenia in 1992. Nakhichevan has been influenced by the pressure of the blockade for over 10 years.

At that period the Military troops of Armenia occupied 20% of Azeri lands and over 1 million Azerbaijanis turned to refugees. The occupation caused a great damage to the state railroad of Azerbaijan as well. Thus, the over 140 kilometers of railroad was subject to Armenians attacks that destroyed the entire railway infrastructure and traffic elements.

Yet the railway managed to preserve its infrastructure in such conditions and achieved the satisfaction of needs in the transportation. The year of 1996 that was notable for the created technical and organizational conditions for the stabilization of operation works, the increase of the reduced transportation volume and the regulation of the repair works became the turning point in the history. That primarily became possible due to the personal assistance of President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev and the special care he paid for the development and the activity of railroad. The purposeful economic reforms, successful internal and external policy and democratization he initiated preconditioned the acceleration of the socioeconomic development of Azerbaijan. The State Railroad of Azerbaijan appealed to the international organizations for the improvement of its capacities for the international cargoes transportation. The railroad became the member of the Council of Baltic states' railway transport, the Organization for Railway Cooperation and International Railroads Union. The cargo transportations in the UN and Baltic states are regulated by the international tariff agreements.

The European Union rendered a great aide to the State Railroad of Azerbaijan in the hard transition period. The railroad was granted USD 4 million of technical and financial aide. These funds were used in the repair and reconstruction of two large bridges, the acquisition of 2 boiling houses for the purification of carriages with steam and the import of spare parts.

At the same time the European Union granted USD 6 million for the establishment of the optic-fibrous cable from Baku to the Georgian border to promote the improvement of the communication along the route. The works on the cable establishment were to be completed by late 2002 and the modernized communication system to be commissioned. The grants received from other sources for the purchase of new equipment amounted to USD 1.2 million.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and development rendered the credit of USD 20 million to the State Railroad of Azerbaijan for the reconstruction of an infrastructure on the Silk Road. The credit was used for the purchase of two highly productive modern cars produced by the Austrian firm Plasser-Toyrer and for the construction of a plant producing iron sleepers and with the annual capacity of 350 thousand sleepers. The profound repair works was to carried on 70 kilometers of the Baku-Boyuk-Kesik section and the reconstruction of the washing station was to be held as well.

The agreement on coordination of the railway activity between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan laid the foundation for the gradual improvement of the situation. The route container transportations were for the first time arranged between Baku and Poti (Georgia) in late 1996.

The total volume of cargo transportations increased mainly owing to the oil and oil products. A new Dubendi station was constructed along with the oil terminal in 1998 and it has transported 9.1 million tons of crude oil within the last 4.8 years.

The hopes of the State Railroad of Azerbaijan are mainly connected with the restoration of the historical Silk Road. Within the framework of TACIS program of the European Union the TRASECA program of the transport infrastructure aimed at the restoration of the transport route originating from the Central Asia and extending to the Black Sea and then to Europe. The State Railroad of Azerbaijan is optimistic about its future. The restoration of Azerbaijan's traditional role of a bridge between Europe and Asia will promote the increase in the cargo transportation by the railway in the future.