Alstom Managing Director: Supply of all 40 locomotives for BTK to last until end of 2020 - INTERVIEW

Alstom: Supply of all 40 locomotives for BTK to last until end of 2020
The program for all 40 locomotives for BTK will probably be going until the end of 2020
© Report/Elchin Murad

Baku. 21 January. REPORT.AZ/ Report interviews Alstom Managing Director for Western and Central Asia Bernard Peille.

– Alstom’s first contracted freight locomotive was supplied to Azerbaijan in December 2018. Alstom has been planning to test the locomotive and the infrastructure of the Azerbaijan Railways (ADY). How the tests are going on?

– As you know, we have two types of locomotives – passenger and freight. For the passenger locomotive the tests are still ongoing, they’ve started a while ago. We plan to end up the first stage of the tests under 3 kV probably before end of March and then we will need another 2-3 months of tests once we have the 25 kV available. For the freight locomotives – the first two of them have already arrived [in Baku]. You can see them in depot. We now wait for the third one to come in January. A part of the test has already been started in Kazakhstan, close to the factory [EKZ factory in Almaty], and the rest will be done here. I think it will take another four months to test the full compliance with specifications, to validate the locomotive for operation with ADY.

The first AZ8A locomotive became a part of the contract signed by Alstom with Azerbaijan Railways in 2014 for the supply of 50 locomotives, including 10 passenger locomotives Prima M4 AZ4A. AZ8A is a heavy-duty freight locomotive from the Prima T8 series, which is based on the KZ8A locomotive, currently operated in Kazakhstan. AZ8A is designed for operation at temperatures from -25 to 50 degrees Celsius.

The locomotive is designed according to the specific technical requirements provided by the ARW Company, and also meets the GOST and TU standards. Prima T8 is one of the most powerful electric locomotives in the world. The model consists of two sections, is able to pull a train weighing up to 9,000 tons and reach a speed of 120 km/h.

– Is there any schedule for future supplies?

– The plan as of today is to have 10 passenger locomotives delivered by March-April this year. For the freight locomotives the schedule is a bit longer because we have started to deliver them only recently, so the program for all 40 locomotives will probably be going until the end of 2020.

– What about modernization of signaling infrastructure of the railways on the Baku-Boyuk Kasik section?

– For the moment being we aren’t engaged in the process. We are listening for the needs of ADY. The tender hasn’t been issued yet. Once the tender is issued – of course we’ll be eager to participate in it to bring our solutions which are today are recognized as very efficient. But so far we’re waiting for the definition of technical specifications by ADY.

The work is currently ongoing on overhaul of the 600-kilometer section of the Baku-Boyuk Kasik railway.

– The first stage of the development of the master plan of the city of Baku, involving creation of a development concept, has already been completed and work has begun on the second stage, which also touches upon the possible restoration of the tram line in the city. Are there any updates on this matter?

– There aren’t any really. We are a large tram supplier in the market, but not the only one. We can help the cities to define what would be a good technical adaptation, good infrastructure, etc. Our position remains the same as six months ago: we are waiting for the launch of discussion. We have large expectations on that matter because we have not only technology but knowledge on how to develop the system. So we’re able to cooperate with the city of Baku to try to put that in place in the years to come.

Chairman of the State Committee for Architecture and Urban Development Samir Nuriyev earlier said that discussions on the restoration of tram system within the master plan of Baku will be held with relevant state organizations.

The Baku tram line network was operating between 1889 and 2004. A horsecar line was opened in Baku in 1889. On February 8, 1924, an electric tram line was launched in Baku, which lasted until 2004.

In February 2012, the government of Azerbaijan announced that it is planning to restore the tram line in Baku. A new line had to be laid along the seaside promenade in central Baku as part of the Baku White City development project.

– Alstom’s locomotives will be used in the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, which is considered to be a part of the greater project - ‘One Belt, One Road’ or the ‘The New Silk Road’. What’s Alstom’s vision on this project? How is it important for the countries of the region?

– During the last 10 years there has been a very important trend to increase traffic and to promote railways solutions. Be it BTK, or be it the Great Silk Road as a whole, today, every country in Caucasus and Central Asia involved in the transportation corridors is trying to modernize the flow to improve passenger comfort, to increase the freight volume. On top of that, there is the renewal of the aging fleets, which mostly come from the time of the late-USSR. Such work requires huge investments that ultimately had to be contributed to good products. 

Azerbaijan is going that way as well, modernizing its fleet, optimizing passenger comfort and lead time. The Great Silk Road project brings lots of benefits for every country on the route, including Azerbaijan and we believe we can contribute to the project very much by providing the locomotives and other products ADY would need.

The official opening ceremony of the BTK railway was held in Baku Oct. 30 last year. The BTK railway was constructed on the basis a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement.

The railway’s peak capacity will be 17 million tons of cargo per year. At an initial stage, this figure will be one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo.

– What are your future plans with Azerbaijan and ADY?

– We continue our work to cooperate with ADY. We are thinking on which solutions we could propose to Baku to improve the network, the traffic management and the comfort of passengers through LRT. We continue to consider to provide solutions for the Baku Metro, whether we talk about the rolling stock or the signaling. We are very well engaged in Azerbaijan, I’d say, more and more. Now we are also looking to develop service business for these new locomotives because they will need to be maintained and the aim is to keep them very operational for the next 40 years. We are happy to support and contribute to our customers whenever we can.

Alstom is a major French engineering company, one of the world leaders in production of railway transport.

Fikret Dolukhanov

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