President Ilham Aliyev receives Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies (PHOTO) (UPDATE)

Details added (first version posted at 15:55 on Jan. 15)

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jan. 15

Trend:

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Ramin Guluzade.

Speaking at the meeting, President Ilham Aliyev said:

- As is the case with all other spheres in Azerbaijan, transport sector developed well last year. This development is manifested in real projects and is also reflected in the reports of international organizations. Suffice it to say that a record figure was reached in the construction of roads last year - 1,300 kilometers of roads were built. Thus, intercity traffic improved and the construction of trunk roads was continued. The roads of hundreds of schools were improved and reconstructed.

The Davos World Economic Forum has praised the work Azerbaijan is doing in the transport sector. In general, Azerbaijan’s transport infrastructure ranks 31st in the world according to the Davos report. This is a fairly high indicator. In terms of this indicator, we are ahead of several developed countries. In terms of the quality of roads, we are in 27th place in the world. According to the efficiency of railway transport, we are in 11th place and for air transport in 12th place.

In other words, this essentially shows that the work recently done in the transport sector deserves the highest praise. Along with this, very important interstate projects were implemented last year. The commissioning of a new automobile bridge on the Azerbaijani-Russian border was a major event, because the previous bridge was built in the 1950s and had practically become unserviceable. The new bridge will serve the development of both transport and trade relations between Azerbaijan and Russia. At the same time, it is an integral part of the North-South transport corridor. Currently, a new highway is being built to the Russian border and the bulk of this highway will be commissioned by the end of the year.

In parallel, there are plans to build a new highway from Astara to the Iranian border. This issue has been agreed with the Iranian side. Thus, trucks will be able to directly move in the direction of Iran without entering Astara. In addition, a new automobile bridge will be built. A few years ago, a new railway bridge was built between the two countries, which is of great importance for the functioning of the North-South transport corridor.

Of course, more goods were transported along the North-South transport corridor last year. This is natural because there has been a lot of recovery in this direction since the commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Goods are being transported not only from the eastern direction, but also from Russia to Turkey and Europe through the territory of Azerbaijan, and the volume of cargo will grow every year. Thus, Azerbaijan, which does not have access to the world ocean, has become one of Eurasia’s international transport centers.

This year's investment program provides for sufficiently large funds for the development of the transport sector. At the same time, specific projects related to the construction of roads and railways will be implemented. The Laki-Gabala railway should be commissioned this year. At the same time, we are starting to design and build the Baku-Yalama and Khudat-Shahdag railways. Thus, we will significantly improve the quality of existing railways and train speeds will increase accordingly.

We also attach great importance to the development of urban transport. This year, an additional 300 modern buses will be delivered to Baku and work in this direction will be continued in the future. At the same time, on my instruction, new taxis should be delivered. Please report on this issue – have contracts been signed and when will new taxis be delivered to our city?

Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Ramin Guluzade said: Thank you, Mr President. In this regard, I would like to note that 1,500 London taxis are operating in Azerbaijan now. Of these, 1,200 are subordinated to our ministry. On your instruction, we have ordered 100 new London taxis that meet modern standards. The advantage of the taxis, which will be delivered to Azerbaijan within three months, is that they work on electricity, not on fuel. I want to note again that these taxis fully meet modern standards.

President Ilham Aliyev: What is the level of the taxi service in other cities?

Ramin Guluzade: Mr President, we need to pay more attention to this area in the regions because there are vehicles that do not fully meet standards, so we are working in this direction.

President Ilham Aliyev: I am instructing you to seriously analyze this work. How many taxis operate in each city? What is the quality level of the taxis? How is safety ensured and how are calculations carried out? We must make sure that there are modern taxi services in all our cities, first of all, in large ones. It is necessary to set up modern taxi stations, train drivers and arrange for their medical examination. As in all areas, in this area too, we must move from cash to card payments and install taximeters. So not only in Baku, but first of all in all large cities, and at the subsequent stage in other cities as well.

This also applies to bus transport because currently bus service in Baku and Sumgayit meets modern standards. But this is not the case everywhere. Low-quality buses with expired service life are still functioning in Baku. For this purpose, we deliver 300 buses to our country every year. According to the information provided to me, the bus sector in Ganja is outdated. How many buses operate in other cities, how many should be purchased? Of course, first of all, this issue should be resolved in the capital – the city of Baku. But other cities should not be ignored either.

How is the issue of intercity transport being addressed? What are the problems and achievements in this area?

Ramin Guluzade: Dear Mr President, a month ago we launched a long-distance night service. The main goal is for our citizens to be able to use not only daytime, but also nighttime buses. This service is provided by MAN buses meeting modern standards. At the same time, we are updating the bus fleet to the level of modern standards. We have already improved the standards. We will continue to work with entrepreneurs in relation to these standards.

President Ilham Aliyev: This is also a very important issue because as the quality of roads improves today, intercity routes are provided with new buses. Of course, these buses must meet the highest safety standards. Since you have opened the night service, the quality and safety of these buses, as well as the training of drivers and their medical examination must be in the spotlight. Inspection should also be carried out in this area – what percentage of buses fully meets the standards? Private companies work in this area more. They also need to be supported so that they can raise their work in this direction at a higher level.

Another issue is related to cargo transportation. The volume of goods transported from Azerbaijan abroad is growing and will continue to grow. Our non-oil sector is growing. Last year, our non-oil exports grew by 14 percent. However, many of our goods are transported by foreign companies. This is due to the fact that the vehicles and trucks used in Azerbaijan for cargo transportation are poorly provided by local companies. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to this issue. First of all, you should analyze and report to me on what percentage of cargo transportation is carried out by Azerbaijani companies. You should do the truck fleet review. What is their condition and is their quantity consistent with our increasing production? If the state can help private companies in the acquisition of new TIR trucks, then we are ready for this. This area can also be provided with low-interest loans. Since the transport sector of Azerbaijan is developing rapidly and international organizations acknowledge that, then all components in the transport sector must meet high standards. Of course, any country wants its cargo to be transported by local companies. Therefore, I am instructing you to analyze this issue and report to me.

In November last year, Kazakhstan hosted the ceremony of laying the foundation of a new communication line between this country and Azerbaijan. This is also a very important project. Azerbaijan has made great strides in the field of communications and high technologies. The traditional Bakutel exhibition attracts huge attention. Please update me on what will be done in this direction this year.

Ramin Guluzade: Dear Mr President, in the future, the fiberoptic line connecting Baku and Kazakhstan will become a line linking Europe with Asia. This will allow us the opportunity to transfer the Internet from Europe to China and other countries through Azerbaijan in the future. This will be done to meet further Internet needs in Azerbaijan and other countries and use high-quality Internet. I also want to note that interest in the Bakutel exhibition is increasing every year. Visiting it, you also see that there is a growing interest in this area on the part of both local companies and startups. Such events are planned for the future too.

President Ilham Aliyev: This also needs great attention. Bakutel has been held for over 20 years and is the main exhibition and conference of the region. The head of the International Telecommunication Union usually also attends this exhibition and conference. During meetings with me, the leaders of this organization always appreciate the work Azerbaijan is doing in this area. Since Azerbaijan has already become one of the important transport centers of Eurasia, our country must certainly turn into a center in the field of laying communication lines, the Internet and fiberoptic communications. Therefore, the foundation-laying ceremony held in Kazakhstan in November last year is of particular importance. I am sure that this line will soon be laid. Its length is 400 kilometers. At the same time, the number of Internet users is gradually increasing in Azerbaijan – it is already 80 percent. To provide high-quality Internet, additional funds must also be provided.

So a lot remains to be done in this area this year. However, it is gratifying that excellent results have already been achieved, and we will only go along the development path in the future. Azerbaijan must continue to maintain its leading positions in the field of transport, communications and high technologies in the region, and we must build up our potential.

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