|Georgian Railway LLC|
|Track gauge||1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in)|
|Length||1,323.9 km (822.6 mi)|
A vital artery linking the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, it sits on the shortest route between Europe and Central Asia. Built to 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) standard Russian gauge, at present the fully electrified mainline of the Georgian Railway is 1323.9 km in length, consisting of 1422 bridges, 32 tunnels, 22 passenger and 114 goods stations.
From this central spine, the railway network expanded with links to: Rioni to Kutaisi (1877), Rioni-Tkibuli (1887), Zestafoni to Chiatura (1895). The Tbilisi to Baku line became operational in 1883, allowing transportation of Azerbaijan oil through the port of Batumi. In 1899 the railway connection between Georgia and Armenia was established. The Khashuri to Borjomi link was built in 1894, with the 914 mm (3 ft) Borjomi to Bakuriani narrow-gauge line operational from 1902, to serve the higher level skiing community. The Kakheti railway branch line was completed in 1915.
The second major development of Georgian railways was due to rapid industrialisation and need for better distribution of agricultural products, including tea, citrus and wine produce. This resulted in the construction of the branch lines to: Natanebi-Ozurgeti (1924); Brotseula-Tskaltubo (1934), Senaki-Ingiri-Gali (1930), Gali-Ochamchire-Sokhumi (1938), Gori-Tskhinvali (1940). The construction of the Sokhumi-Adler allowing direct connection to the Russian railway network started during the World War II, and was in full operation by 1949.
The new Marabda to Akhalkalaki line opened on 31 December 1986. Presently, plans are under way to rehabilitate this line and extend to across the Turkish border to Kars, thus re-creating a direct Kars–Tbilisi–Baku route. (Between 1899 and 1993, rail travel between Kars and Tbilisi was possible via Gyumri (Alexandropol, Leninakan), but that route was broken in 1993 with the closing of the Turkish-Armenian border.)
Due to the challenging mountainous geography of Georgia, railway engineers have often been faced with some difficult challenges. In 1890 the dual tracking of the Tsipa tunnel was completed, allowing faster passage of East-West traffic.
On August 16, 1932 for the first time in the USSR, the first electric traction train ran in the Surami pass. The General Electric Company produced the initial eight electric locomotives of Class S for the service, followed by an additional 21 Class Ss built by the Kolomna and Dinamo works between 1932 and 1934. By November 1967 all Georgian railway was electrified, including the Borjomi-Bakuriani narrow-gauge line. (Some lines are no longer electrically operated due to political and economic instability and war, particularly in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.)
Post World War II, from 1946 the USSR army engineers with the prospect of connection to their system introduced modern communications, automatisation and Automatic Block Signalling systems. This was followed by the introduction of on train and guard radio communication systems, a process which was completed by 1949.
Following the dissolution of the USSR, the Georgian Government took control of many of the key assets of the new country, and undertook an aggressive privatisation campaign. The railway assets of Georgia were formed into the new 100% government owned company The Georgian Railway LLC, which operates under the public law of the Enterprise Management Agency, part of the Ministry of Economic Development. It is charged with both management and maintenance of the rail infrastructure, as well as all operations of passenger and freight services. The team which forms the management body consist of: The Assembly of Partners, Supervisory Board and the Board of Directors.
Following the 2008 South Ossetia war, Russian army forces entered parts of Georgia and damaged key Georgian assets. This included a railway bridge near the western Georgian town of Kaspi, and application of mines to the mainline west of Gori resulted in the complete derailment and resultant fire of an oil train.
The lines located in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not under control of Georgian Railway. Lines from Nikozi to Tskhinvali (5 km) and from Ochamchira to Inguri River are not in use; much of the track and overhead on these two lines has been looted, and stations such as Gali have been destroyed or heavily damaged. Lines from Psou River to Ochamchira and from Ochamchira to Tkvarcheli are operated by Abkhazian Railways.
- Azerbaijan - open - 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) (Tbilisi-Baku line); a through 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) (Standard Gauge) connection proposed
- Armenia - open - 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) (Tbilisi–Gyumri–Yerevan line)
- Turkey - under construction - Standard Gauge line (Akhalkalaki–Kars) under construction; this standard gauge line will connect with Georgia's 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) railway at Akhalkalaki.
- Russia - closed - 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) - via the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia - closed since the War in Abkhazia (1992–1993)
Until 2004 Georgian Railway had been significantly affected by corruption. On the one hand, modernization and maintenance of the railway was neglected; for example, out of 11,000 rail cars, only 7,000 were in operation. On the other hand the football stadium of Lokomotiv Tbilisi, the team of Georgian Railway, had one of the most modern sports sites in the country. General manager Akaki Tschchaidse was arrested in 2004 and spent several months in custody, before he redeemed himself for 3 million US dollars.
The railway company was restructured in the same year, and the general manager became subordinate to a supervisory board. From June 2004 until October 2005 David Onoprishvili, a former finance minister and a professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, was general manager. He reformed management and assigned the American consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to conduct an organizational appraisal.
As part of a modernization program, 2,445 employees were laid off, while wages for remaining employees were increased by about 17 percent. Tariffs for goods (freight) transport were lowered, while modernized, air-conditioned rail cars and express services were launched for passengers. A program of new and renovated station buildings commenced in 2006. The station building of the Tbilisi central station, excluding the rail infrastructure, was reconstructed and officially inaugurated in May 2010. The stations Makhinjauri (a suburb of Batumi) and Kobuleti also received new station buildings.
The direct railway line through the center of Tbilisi will be replaced by a bypass north of Tbilisi in the coming years. The central station will be closed to passengers, and the existing infrastructure will be dismantled. Instead of a central station, two Tbilisi stations, the Didube station in the northwest part of the city, and the Navtlugi (Samgori) station in the east, will become stub-end stations served only by passenger trains. Because of this, through passenger service and direct passenger transfers will not be possible in the future.
However, instead of the expected reduction of environmental and traffic problems, the reductions are expected to cause more traffic problems, due to the fact that the surface (bus and trolleybus) and underground (Metro) public transport system of Tbilisi is oriented toward the central station. As a result, Western European transportation specialists and railway companies strongly disagree with the solutions recommended by Booz Allen.
- Abkhazia is de jure part of Georgia, de facto not under Georgian control
- South Ossetia is de jure part of Georgia, de facto not under Georgian control.
- "Georgian Railway - History". Georgian Railway LLC. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- "Georgian Railway - About Us". Georgian Railway LLC. Retrieved 2008-08-23.[dead link]
- "Damaged Georgian railway to open in 10 days". Israel News. 2008-08-17. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- Rising, David (2008-08-24). "US warship sails into Georgia with aid; Georgians blame Russia for oil train hitting mine". Chicago Tribune/Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-08-24.
- Станцию Ахалкалаки в Грузии спроектируют в Азербайджане (Georgia's Akhalkalaki station will be designed by an Azerbaijani firm). Interfax, 17.11.2009. (Russian)
- "Georgian Railway - Tbilisi Railway Bypass Project". Georgian Railway LLC. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- "Georgische Eisenbahn". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
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