Government is considering putting Tbilisi railway bypass project on hold, pending final decision on how to proceed with the plan to divert rail traffic around the capital city’s center, Economy Minister and deputy PM, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, said on Monday.
The project, launched in 2010, involves building of a new railway line 10 km north of Tbilisi to re-route rail traffic, which is part of the key east-west freight corridor, outside of the capital city. Diverting of the rail traffic, according to the project, would free more than 70 hectares of land in the city center for urban development.
“A final decision has not yet been formally made,” Kvirikashvili said on August 5. “We have discussed this issue. Technical issues emerged such as road slope and so on, which unfortunately have not been studied in advance. We are thinking to put this project on hold for a certain period of time and to get back to it if better technical solutions are prepared.”
Koka Guntsadze, chairman of a supervisory board of the state-owned Georgian Railway company, citing comparative calculation study for the existing and the bypass line commissioned to Vienna-based MC Mobility Consultants, claimed that the bypass railway would increase maintenance and operating cost of the company and make railway traffic management “complicated”; he also argued that the bypass project would decrease railway line capacity.
Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugalava, defended the bypass project and criticized the the Georgian Railway's leadership.
“Interests of the capital city are being sacrificed for the interest of one company,” Ugulava said and added that implementation of the bypass line would have fostered urban development in Tbilisi. “I want to request the government to sit down and discuss this issue… There are two matchless issues on the scales – the interests of the city on the one side and the interest of one company on the other.”
Ugulava said that although the bypass project “might really be unprofitable” for the Georgian Railway company, it was unreasonable to suspend it because “80% of the project has already been implemented.” “I think it is worth to finance the remaining 20%,” he said.
In March, 2010 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) agreed to provide the Georgian Railway EUR 100 million loan to fund the bypass railway project. In November, 2011 the Georgian Railway, however, decided to pursue construction of bypass route without EBRD's loan.