New railroad will link Europe to Asia by way of the Caucasus

Marilyn sez, "The 750-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway that will connect the oil-rich Caspian Sea region to Turkey and beyond is being built to grease a trade boom, transporting European goods east and petroleum products west across the southern Caucasus. Once completed, by 2012, the railway will begin at the Azerbaijani capital of Baku and travel through the Georgian city of Tbilisi, before carrying on to Kars, a Turkish post town on the southwestern lip of the Caucasus region."

… says N. Ahmet KuÅŸhanoğlu, the Turkish deputy director of transport in charge of railways. "Turkey's face is turned westward since two centuries." Now Turkey is looking east in order to make itself indispensable to the West. Once the Marmaray rail tunnel opens in 2013 beneath the Bosporus in Istanbul, trains from Baku will reach all the way to London. "It is easy to see that this railway shall serve Europe also," says KuÅŸhanoğlu."

But not everyone in the region stands to benefit:
"…the BTK railway is the result of an alliance between Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan; neighboring Armenia was deliberately left out of the party. And like the pipeline, this east-west corridor will provide an alternative to going through Russia to the north or Iran to the south. It is a more than $600-million project of economic development, social engineering, or shrewd geopolitics, depending on your point of view, which in the southern Caucasus shifts as quickly as the snow that obscures the mountain road."

Eurasian Railroad
(Thanks, Marilyn!)

(Image: Alex Webb/National Geo)