Construction work on the first section of the three-phased Horadiz-Aghband railway is nearing completion. The railway is an integral part of the multi-modal Zangazur Corridor, which connects Azerbaijan’s mainland with its southwestern Nakhchivan exclave.
According to officials at the Azerbaijan Railways Company, rails were laid along 23 kilometers from the town of Horadiz in the Fuzuli district to the Mahmudlu station in the Jabrayil district.
The Horadiz-Aghband railway, the foundation of which was laid by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in February 2021, will measure 110.4 kilometers in length. The construction of the railroad is being carried out in three stages.
The first stage involves the construction of a 30-kilometer section of the railway and the stations of Horadiz, Marjanly, and Mahmudlu. A 55-kilometer segment of the line and Soltanly and Gumlag stations will be commissioned as part of the second stage, while the final phase includes the construction of a 25.4-kilometer railway and Minjivan, Bartaz, and Aghband stations.
“It is planned to build eight stations, three tunnels, 41 bridges, four overpasses and a total of about 300 artificial engineering structures along the entire route of the railway,” Azerbaijan Railways official Mahammad Naghizade said.
Ninety percent of the work has already been completed as part of the first stage, as well as nine bridges, two junctions, and 52 emergency junctions have been built. Elements of the railway superstructure have been laid on the 23-kilometer section of the route making it possible to launch trains in test mode.
Currently, work is underway to prepare the railway on the second section from the Mahmudlu station to the Gumlag station. The project is expected to be completed in 2023.
Construction of the Zangazur Corridor is one of the economic benefits brought in the region after Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War in 2020 and liberation of its territories from decades-long illegal Armenian occupation.
Armenia and Azerbaijan had been at odds for nearly thirty years over the latter’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region, which fell under Armenia’s control in the wake of a full-blown war from 1991 to 1994. The bloody war saw Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia. As a result of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, Nakhchivan became fully isolated from the Azerbaijani mainland after Armenia closed energy, electricity, and transport connections, including highways and railways to and from the region.
On September 27, 2020, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict took a violent turn when Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counter-attack operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended with a tripartite statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10, 2020. Under the agreement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
The liberation of Azerbaijan’s lands has created ample opportunities to reshape the regional economy, trade and transportation. The tripartite statement called for the implementation of various issues of regional significance, including the restoration of all economic and transport links, one of which is the Zangazur Corridor.
Government officials in Azerbaijan are convinced that such regional transportation projects, including the Zangazur Corridor, could foster peace and cooperation and create new opportunities. According to some analysts, the corridor would add a new artery to the East-West and North-South intercontinental transport corridors. The launch of the multi-modal Zangazur Corridor is expected to benefit all regional countries and contribute to the Eurasian trade and transport communications that incorporate the regional economies with a nominal GDP of $1.1 trillion.
The Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders reaffirmed the agreement for proceeding with the unblocking of the regional transport communications in a trilateral meeting with the European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on December 14, 2021.
Although the Armenian authorities have confirmed the plans for constructing another segment of the Zangazur Corridor through the country’s territory, no practical steps have been taken yet. According to the Armenian vice-premier Mher Gregorian, it will take $200 million and three years to build the 45-kilometer railway segment. However, the date for breaking ground on the project remains unknown.