AZERBAIJAN: The World Bank has approved a US$450m financing package to support the modernisation of the national rail network, with particular focus on the 550 km east-west corridor linking Baku with the Georgian capital Tbilisi (RG 1.08 p50).

The Bank said on March 27 that the Railway Trade & Transportation Facilitation Project would improve 'the competitiveness, financial sustainability, operating and cost efficiency and capacity of the Azerbaijan Railways'.

Intended to support the first phase of the country's 2008-11 railway modernisation programme, the funding package is split into four components. The biggest covers renewal of track, signalling and power supplies on 240 route-km of the east-west main line, allowing ADDY to run passenger trains at up to 100 km/h and freight trains at 80 km/h. The electrification will be converted from 3·3 kV DC to 25 kV 50 Hz. A related component will fund the purchase of 50 electric locomotives for the route.

The remaining elements cover the modernisation of ADDY's administrative and management systems to meet international financial reporting standards, plus the provision of advisory and project management services.