The Abkhazian railway consists of a 101 km (63 mi) rail line along the Black Sea coast. Built to 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 27⁄32 in) Russian gauge, it connected Russia's North Caucasus Railway with Georgian railways prior to 1992. This connection was severed as a result of the War in Abkhazia. The railway is administered by the Abkhazskaya Zheleznaya Doroga (Russian: Абхазская Железная Дорога, Abkhaz: Аҧсны Аиҳаамҩа) company.
The bridge over the Inguri River was blown up on 14 August 1992, which was the day when Georgian forces entered Abkhazia and is the date considered as the start of the War in Abkhazia. The pretext for sending the Georgian National Guard to Abkhazia in 1992 was to protect the railroad. The bridge was subsequently restored but blown up again in 1993, after the end of the war.
The track between Achigvara and the Inguri River was dismantled. The rest of the railway line also suffered greatly during the war. After the war ended, traffic was restored along the line. The railway system of Abkhazia was isolated in the 1990s, due to the blockade imposed by Russia.
On 25 December 2002 the Sochi-Sukhumi elektrichka train made its first run since the war, which let to Georgian protests. As the number of Russian tourists greatly increased in the 2000s, the Psou-Sukhumi section was mainly repaired by Russia in 2004 and on 10 September 2004 the Moscow-Sukhumi train first arrived in the capital of Abkhazia.
The Ochamchira-Sukhumi, Sochi-Sukhumi and Tkvarcheli-Sukhumi elektrichkas, that had operated at various times from 1993, no longer operated by 2007 due to various infrastructure problems. The last of the elektrichka, Gudauta-Sukhumi, was closed down on the end of 2007. The Adler-Gagra train service was resumed on 26 June 2010 by the Don-Prigorod company.
There have been proposals to restore destroyed parts of the railway and re-establish rail traffic between Russia and the Trans-Caucasian countries of Armenia and Georgia. The alternative route through Azerbaijan is significantly longer and not available at all, in the case of Armenia, due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Georgia has long tied the restoration of rail traffic with the return of refugees to Abkhazia.
On 15 May 2009 the Abkhaz leader, Sergey Bagapsh, announced that Abkhazia's railway and airport would be transferred to Russia with management rights for ten years, a decision which caused a negative outcry in Abkhazia. According to the Abkhaz tycoon and opposition party leader, Beslan Butba, this has led to growing anti-Russian sentiment in Abkhazia.
In late 2012 and early 2013 the new Georgian government under Prime Minister Ivanishvili repeatedly proposed to revamp the Abkhazian Railway and getting it hooked on the Georgian railways, specifically to appease Armenia, and enabling a commercial link to Russia. This sparked domestic and international discussion in Armenia (the country with the most commercial interest in such a connection), in Azerbaijan (which has fears it enables Russia with a more efficient military transport to its base in Gyumri, Armenia) and in Russia (Russian Railways owning the Armenian-based South Caucasus Railways). The Abkhaz authorities first reacted dismissively to cooperate with such initiative, but later changed their tone. Azerbaijan shortly threatened with consequences for the Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway connection, due completion at the end of 2013, and suggested rising the gas price charged to Georgia. In Georgia there is still sharp opposition to reopening this railway link.
Currently there is only one train connection from the Russian Federation to Abkhazia. The train from Moscow to Sukhumi operates daily at the high touristic season in summer and twice a week at the low season. The additional trains from St. Petersburg and Voronezh operate during the touristic season in summer.
- Абхазская Железная Дорога (Abkhazian railway) (Russian)
- История абхазской железной дороги (History of the Abkhazian railway) (Russian)
- АБХАЗСКАЯ ЖЕЛЕЗНАЯ ДОРОГА: общие сведения, (Russian)
- Железнодорожный транспорт Республики Абхазия
- EURASIA INSIGHT, ABKHAZIA AND GEORGIA: READY TO RIDE ON THE PEACE TRAIN? (cached), 8.5.2005
- Официальный визит Председателя Парламента Грузии Нино Бурджанадзе в Российскую Федерацию, (Russian)
- Прекращено движение поезда Сухум - Гудаута, 8.1.2008
- Don-Prigorod news, 30.06.2010
- (Russian) В Абхазии наблюдается тенденция роста антироссийских настроений: интервью лидера партии ЭРА Беслана Бутбы. Regnum, 22.5.2009
- (Russian) Это часть нашей стратегии по деизоляции Абхазии 02.11.2012
- Opening the Abkhaz railway: Who stands to benefit, who will lose out? (1) 23.01.2013
- Opening the Abkhaz railway: Who stands to benefit, who will lose out? (2) 29.01.2013
- Abkhazia: Once again about the rail road 29.11.2012
- Azerbaijan's contribution to the isolation of Abkhazia 22.01.2013
- Russian railway in Caucasus a threat to Baku-Tbilisi-Ankara initiated projects 27.03.2013
- Georgia's PM: South Caucasus Railway can be reopened 02.03.2013