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Azerbaijan Table of Contents


Transportation and Telecommunications


Figure 10. Transportation System of Azerbaijan, 1994

Azerbaijan's transportation system is extensive for a country of its size and level of economic development. Analysts attribute this advantage to the fact that when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, its economy was heavily geared to export of petroleum and to transshipment of goods across the Caucasus. The system is burdened by an extensive bureaucracy, however, that makes prompt equipment repair difficult, and the country's economic problems have delayed replacement of aging equipment and facilities.

In 1990 Azerbaijan had 36,700 kilometers of roads, 31,800 kilometers of which were paved. One of the country's two main routes parallels the Caspian Sea coast from Russia to Iran, passing through Baku (see fig. 10). The other, Route M27, leads west out of the capital to the Georgian border. A major branch from this route heads south through Stepanakert, capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. All major towns have a paved road connection with one of the principal routes. An extensive intercity bus service is the primary mode of intercity travel. Maintenance of the system has deteriorated since independence in 1991, however, and one study estimated that 60 percent of the main highways were in bad condition, resulting in excessive wear on vehicles and tires and in poor fuel consumption.

Azerbaijan had 2,090 kilometers of rail lines in 1990, excluding several small industrial lines. Most lines are 1.520- meter broad gauge, and the principal routes are electrified. In the 1990s, the rail system carried the vast majority of the country's freight. As with the highway system, one of the two main lines parallels the Caspian Sea coast from Russia to Iran before heading west to Turkey, and the other closely parallels Route M27 from Baku to the Georgian border. A major spur also parallels the highway to Stepanakert. Another smaller rail line begins just west of Baku and hugs the Iranian border to provide the only rail link to Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, isolated southwest of Armenia. Passenger service from Baku to Erevan has been suspended, and service from Baku to Tbilisi has sometimes been disrupted because of the NagornoKarabakh conflict. In 1994 passenger service from Baku to Iran also was halted. Trains making the forty-three-hour trip to Moscow, however, still operate three times daily. The government estimates that 700 kilometers, or about one-third, of the rail system are in such poor condition that reconstruction is necessary. Much of the system has speed restrictions because of the poor conditions of the rails.

Baku has a modest subway system with twenty-nine kilometers of heavy-rail lines. The system has eighteen stations and is arranged in two lines that cross in the center of the city. Another seventeen kilometers, under construction in 1994, would add twelve more stations to the system.

In 1992 Azerbaijan had twenty-six airfields with paved surfaces. Baku International Airport, twenty-eight kilometers southwest of the city, is the country's principal airport. The number of international air passengers is higher in Azerbaijan than in Armenia and Georgia, with most air traffic moving between Baku and cities in the former Soviet Union. Besides flights to Russia, Azerbaijan Airlines provides service to Turkey and Iran, and direct flights on foreign carriers are available to Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Although situated at an excellent natural harbor, Baku has not developed into a major international port because of its location on the landlocked Caspian Sea. The port serves mostly as a transshipment point for goods (primarily petroleum products and lumber) crossing the Caspian Sea and destined for places to the west, or for passenger service to ports on the eastern or southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The port has seventeen berths, of which five are dedicated for transport of crude oil and petroleum products, two are used for passengers, and the remaining ten handle timber or other cargo. The port can accommodate ships up to 12,000 tons, and its facilities include portal cranes, tugboats, and equipment for handling petroleum and petroleum products. The port area has 10,000 square meters of covered storage and 28,700 square meters of open storage.

Baku is the center of a major oil- and gas-producing region, and major long-distance pipelines radiate from the region's oil fields to all neighboring areas. Pipelines are generally highcapacity lines and have diameters of either 1,020 or 1,220 millimeters. The main petroleum pipeline pumps crude oil from the onshore and offshore Caspian fields near Baku west across Azerbaijan and Georgia to the port of Batumi. There, the oil is either exported in its crude form or processed at Batumi's refinery. Two natural gas lines parallel the petroleum line as far as Tbilisi, where they turn north across the Caucasus Mountains to join the grid of natural gas pipelines that supply cities throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. A spur extends off these main gas pipelines in western Azerbaijan to deliver gas to Nakhichevan. This spur crosses Armenian territory, however, and in 1994 its status was unclear. Altogether, in 1994 Azerbaijan had 1,130 kilometers of crude oil pipeline, 630 kilometers of pipeline for petroleum products, and 1,240 kilometers of natural gas pipeline.

In 1991 some 644,000 telephone lines were in operation, providing nine telephones per 100 persons. At that time, another 200,000 Azerbaijanis were on waiting lists for telephone installation. Azerbaijan's telephone system was connected with other CIS republics by cable and microwave, but connections to non-CIS countries went through Moscow. In 1992 Turkey provided support for installation of an International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat) satellite station in Baku, providing access to 200 countries through Turkey. Azerbaijan receives Turkish and Iranian television programming by satellite, and domestic and Russian broadcasts are received locally.

Data as of March 1994

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