The first Turkish export train travelling on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway will arrive in Xi’An, China from Istanbul today.
Today’s freight train arrival will signal a significant reduction in shipping times from an average of 25-45 days to 12 days. The current freight route, made possible by cooperation between the Turkish State Railway and Pacific Eurasia, is both faster than sea freight and more price stable than air freight. Furthermore, it provides opportunities for continued transit to destinations in Europe.
In developing the BTK railway and ensuring the stability of Baku, Turkey has positioned itself as an essential linkage point within the growing Eurasian rail-trade network. BTK’s faster and cheaper shipping options undercut existing Russian freight train shipping, placing Ankara in direct competition with Moscow for shipping Chinese exports to European markets.
Given the cheaper rates and shorter travel times, expect more freight traffic from China to Europe along the BTK route in the short-term. In the medium-term, Ankara will likely continue to invest in the development of its railways to embed itself within the burgeoning trade corridor, thereby cementing itself as a major trade hub. In the long term, expect Chinese-Turkish trade relations to deepen, to the chagrin of Moscow.