The first Europe-bound ex-China freight train traveling via Turkey’s Middle Corridor continued its historic journey after a stop at the Turkish capital of Ankara in the first week of November. Traveling over two continents and ten countries, the train crossed into Europe using Istanbul’s undersea tunnel, the Marmaray.
Turkey, in line with its strategic location between continents and regions, supports the development of regional transportation projects. It is integrating its Middle Corridor initiative with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The Trans-Caspian East-West-Middle Corridor Initiative, known simply as the “Middle Corridor”, is the revival of the ancient Silk Road. It begins in Turkey and passes through the Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan before crossing the Caspian Sea and traversing Central Asia and terminating in China. Creating a natural synergy with the Belt and Road Initiative, it aims to develop connectivity between the East and the West.
The Middle Corridor is Turkey’s vision of connecting with its civilizational roots in Central Asia. In that sense, pioneering a new trading route through the middle of Eurasia, integrating the Middle Corridor with the Belt and Road initiative is seen as a “win-win” for Turkey.
Compared to the Trans-Siberian Railway, which is also known as the Northern Corridor, the Middle Corridor is a more feasible trade route between Europe and Asia since it is 2,000 kilometers shorter, has more favorable climate conditions, and shortens the travel time by one third compared to the sea route.
Furthermore, thanks to the port connections in Turkey, cargo loads from Asia can reach the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean regions. Thus, when used effectively, the Middle Corridor offers important economic opportunities for the Central Asian countries to benefit from the trade between China and Europe, which is estimated to be worth USD 600 billion annually.
Another important component of the Middle Corridor is the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway (BTK), which was inaugurated in October 2017. Having an initial annual capacity of 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo, BTK offers a new perspective for uninterrupted trade between China and Europe.
Furthermore, Turkey is undertaking various projects to revive the historical Silk Road, such as the “Marmaray” undersea rail, the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge in İstanbul, the Eurasia Tunnel, and the new İstanbul Airport. The Three-Level Grand Istanbul Tunnel Project in İstanbul, the Çanakkale Strait Bridge project, various rail and motorway projects, and the Filyos, Çandarlı, and Mersin ports are major examples of further ongoing mega projects that will also enhance regional interconnectivity.