By Arife Yildiz Unal
The first official train service to connect Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia -- the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway project -- will start on Oct. 30, Transportation Minister Ahmet Arslan said on Monday.
The train will depart from Azerbaijan's Baku to Turkey's eastern Kars province with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili aboard, Arslan told Anadolu Agency.
"Accordingly, the Iron Silk Road will be rebuilt and history will be made again," Arslan said.
Arslan said test drives of the railway service had been successful.
He said the Iron Silk Road would create significant added value to countries in the route and the region.
"It will help the region's economy to be boosted and products to reach target markets," he said.
The minister said international cargo capacity was expected to reach 50 million tons per year through the corridor, adding transportation would become easier between Turkey and Asia, Caucasus and Europe.
He said the railway service would serve a billion passengers and it had 6.5 million tons of freight capacity when the line becomes operational.
The 826-kilometer (513-mile) long railway is being built in accordance with an intergovernmental agreement between Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.