France’s transportation engineering company Alstom announced that it had commissioned the first seven Prima T8 AZ8A freight locomotives to Azerbaijan Railways.
“We are happy that our locomotives entered into commercial operation in Azerbaijan,” said Guillaume Tritter, Managing Director of Alstom in Western and Central Asia.
“Despite the important challenges imposed by the global pandemic, we have been able to produce, conduct all necessary validation tests, and deliver ready-to-run locomotives.”
Alstom’s Prima T8 is one of the most powerful electric locomotives in the world. This model is a 25 tons per axle two-section freight locomotive capable of towing up to 9,000 tons and running at 120 km/h, with installed continuous power of 8.8 Megawatts. The Prima T8 AZ8A is designed to operate in temperatures ranging from -25°C to 50°C. It requires minimum maintenance and provides high-reliability levels and low lifecycle costs thanks to its modular design.
Alstom and Azerbaijan Railways inked the deal in 2014 during a visit to Baku by former French President Francois Hollande. Under the deal, worth €288 million, Alstom should have manufactured and delivered 10 Prima M4 AZ4A passenger and 40 Prima T8 AZ8A freight cars. All passenger locomotives were assembled at the Alstom’s plant in France and have already been delivered to Azerbaijan. Freight locomotives are being assembled at the company’s plant in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Nur-Sultan. The delivery of the remaining cars is expected to be made by the end of 2021.
In addition, under the agreement, Alstom’s specialists are providing technical support and maintenance services in two services depots located in Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku and Ganja, the country’s second-largest city. They also train Azerbaijan Railways' personnel on how to operate the locomotives.
According to the company’s statement, the locomotives will run along the freight transit line, better known as the East-West corridor.
“Our locomotives play a key role in boosting the freight transportation capacity within Azerbaijan, furthermore they also contribute to the ambitious goals of the country to interconnect the neighboring countries,” Tritter said.
The East-West Transport Corridor is an overland transportation corridor that stretches from China to Turkey and ultimately to Europe. Azerbaijan is incorporated into the route, which starts in eastern China and extends westward, traversing Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. From there, it forks in two directions: Eastern Europe and to the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2017, Azerbaijan launched the 846 km-long (526 miles) Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, which is considered the most pivotal link in the modern railway grid of the South Caucasus. The railway is expected to cut the transit time for the shipment of goods coming from Far East to Europe by almost half.