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Reforms carried out under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev laid the foundation of a new stage in the development of railway in Azerbaijan

Interview with  Chairman of Azerbaijan Railway Closed Joint Stoke Company Arif Asgarov

Q: Azerbaijan is among the world leaders in terms of dynamic development. Railway is one of the developing areas in the country. What are the main factors which lay behind the development of this sector?

A: The successes Azerbaijan achieved in all spheres of life are the result of the national leader-founded strategy. Almost all railway facilities in Azerbaijan were built according to national leader Heydar Aliyev`s instructions and under his personal patronage.

The majority of important railway facilities were launched under the leadership of national leader Heydar Aliyev. The relatively recent history of Azerbaijan was a period of difficult ordeals for both the railways and the country as a whole. After the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Azerbaijan’s railways entered a period of recession, the economic links with neighboring countries were interrupted, cargo and passenger transportation were reduced to the minimal level, and transportation in some directions was completely interrupted. As a result of this, the railway infrastructure became unserviceable, qualified professionals had to seek employment in other areas, and the republic’s railways were in disarray.

National leader of the Azerbaijani people Heydar Aliyev`s returning to power following the persistent demands of the people, and his managing to stem the economic decline was a turning point in the development of the railways, and the start of a period of revival for the country’s steel trunk. Specific measures were taken in those years to organize railway passenger transportation both in the country and to neighboring republics at a high level. The railway department started a major campaign to renovate passenger carriages using its own resources. Shortly afterward, high-quality passenger carriages meeting international requirements were commissioned.

Q: What about the continuation of national leader Heydar Aliyev`s policy? How do you assess the government`s attention to the development of railway sector?

A: Launched by national leader Heydar Aliyev, the process of developing and modernizing the country`s transport system saw a new page under President Ilham Aliyev. Today under the President`s personal control and patronage Azerbaijan`s transport structures are closely involved in the North-South and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars international and regional projects.

The current President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, has signed a number of decisions to bring the railway transport system into line with international standards. The key objectives of the programs have been to meet the needs of the growing population and economic demand for railway services, to address the government’s defense needs, to increase Azerbaijan’s transit potential, to improve the quality of railway transport, to reduce the cost of passenger and cargo transportation, to contribute to the effective operation of the transport system in general, and to facilitate the overall socioeconomic development of the country.

This sector has experienced drastic reforms and structural changes, the volume of passenger and cargo transportation has significantly increased, and specific measures have been taken to improve the safety of railway transportation. In an effort to execute the State Program, Azerbaijan Railways has purchased maintenance machines and equipment, set up new production lines, and introduced state-of-the-art technology.

The head of state personally supervises the construction and overhaul of railway facilities. He reviewed passenger carriages in 2011 which were purchased from Slovakia, in 2012 he familiarized himself with the office building of the passenger station in Horadiz station after overhaul. On May 1, 2014 the head of state attended the opening of the new building of Laki railway station, and a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for Stadler carriage making factory.

Q: We would like you to highlight the course of implementation of the 2010-2014 State Program on development of the railway transport system in Azerbaijan. 

A: To ensure compliance of Azerbaijan railways to international standards President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed the executive order about Azerbaijan Railways CJSC on July 20, 2009. This actually served as a new starting point in the process of development. It started reforms introduced in the field of improvement and restructuring of railways, in particular on modernization of the railway infrastructure and railway vehicles.

As a logic continuation of this work on July 6, 2010 President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed the executive order approving the state program on development of the railway transport system of Azerbaijan for 2010-2014. That order became the most powerful document in the history of railways development.

Some important works following from that order on implementation of the state program were executed in the past period and intense discussions were carried out. To fulfill the state program, certain steps are taken with the purpose to upgrade the wagon fleet and the fleet of locomotives, to perform overhaul repair of railways, power supply, components of signalization and communication, transition from alternating to direct current in the direction of Baku-Boyuk-Kasik, modernization of technical equipment and implementation of other important tasks.

Q: Could you please briefly provide information of Railway Trade and Transport Support project

Q:Thanks to the support of the Head of State the credit agreement was signed with Export Bank of Czechia worth 215 million euros with the aim of financing Railway Trade and Transport Support project oriented at development of railways, improvement of infrastructure and management. This money is used to perform major repairs of the 317-km Baku-Boyuk-Kasik railway. By now 82 km of the railway have been already repaired.

The introduction of the international financial accounting system is now implemented with the support of G&G consulting company, trainings are organized for accountants of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC. Trainings arranged by the consulting company are one of most important points in state program’s implementation.

In view of defining economic, legal and organizational activity of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC, the Ministry of Transport of Azerbaijan has worked out the bill “On the railway transport of Azerbaijan” taking into account the offers of the joint stock company and submitted it to the Ministry of Justice.

The list of other legal documents regulating the operation of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC has been approved to improve the legal framework and corresponding technical specifications have been developed on its basis.

Reconstruction of the metal bridge on the 98 km over the Araz River on the Saatly-Bedzhar section has been completed, and the construction of the second branch railway line on Saloglu-Poylu bridge is at the stage of completion.

The process of purchasing of 50 new electric locomotives and the tender procedure on updating of the signaling system in connection with the transition of the traction system to alternating current with the voltage of 27.5 kilovolts in the Baku-Boyuk-Kasik direction are also at the completion stage.