The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in freight rates in maritime trade from China to Europe, delays in trade operations, and significant increases in rail transport, which became a logical alternative after the restrictions. For example, in 2021, goods worth 79 billion euros were transported from east to west through railway. This amount is 50% higher than in 2020, and 10 times more than that in 2016. Similarly, there was a 25% increase in rail freight from Türkiye to Europe in 2020 compared to the year 2019. This increase continued in 2021 as well.
The importance of the Middle Corridor starting from Türkiye and extending to Georgia, Azerbaijan and China through Kazakhstan following the Caspian transition with feeder ships, has increased significantly with the launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway in 2017. Initially, the railway was projected to carry 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo annually, and this annual capacity would reach 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo by 2034. While 267 thousand tons of freight was carried over the BTK line in 2020 with 309 trains, this number reached 480 thousand tons with 735 trains in 2021. Again, increase rate of the railway’s freight transport capacity in 2021 is 80% more compared to 2020.
In 2021, 29 thousand TEUs (20 feet container equivalent unit) of freight was transported through the Middle Corridor while 1.5 million TEUs was handled in the northern routes. Although its capacity remains lower than the Northern Corridor, the amount of freight transported from the Middle Corridor has been increasing every year since the launch of the BTK in 2017. For example, compared to 2020, the number of containers transported in 2021 increased by 52%, and by 30% in the first four months of 2022 compared to the same period of 2021.
Considering the effect of the Russia-Ukraine War on the corridors, the war had severe consequences in global geopolitics: the safety of the railways was questioned, and the sanctions imposed on Moscow negatively affected some of Russia’s neighbors including Kazakhstan as well as various European countries such as Poland, leading them to seek alternatives. For instance, due to the war, the project aiming the distribution of freight from the Northern Corridor mainly to Europe, and turning Poland into China’s “gateway to Europe” was failed. It is observed that Kazakhstan has inclined towards the Middle Corridor. New Ro-Ro (transporting logistics vehicles by ships) lines have been opened or are planned to be opened in the Black Sea due to the formation of new lines by-passing Ukraine.
From the point of Türkiye, it is necessary to address the Ro-Ro lines. In the first eight months of 2021, a total of 83,848 vehicles were handled by Ro-Ro ships in the Black Sea. This figure decreased to 64,235 in the same period of 2022. In addition, following the beginning of the war, exports decreased by 40% to Russia, and by 80% to Ukraine. The reason for the decrease is not the decrease in demand, but rather the risk emerging in the ports where regular Ro-Ro fllghts take place in the Black Sea.
Due to the closure of the Ukrainian route in Europe-Russia trade, Türkiye’s favored position for shipping cargoes from Europe to Russia and Central Asia is replaced by the alternative Georgian route. The insufficient capacity of the border gates on the route caused the accumulation of freights. Some Ro-Ro shipping companies and associations working in the Black Sea have made requests for the opening of alternative routes (such as the İstanbul-Novorossiysk line) in order to prevent accumulation. Efforts on this subject still continue. In addition, the number of operations of some routes has been increased.
As a result, the Northern Corridor line, which is responsible from the 4% of the 10 million containers annually shipped from China to Europe, remaining from the %96 transported by the sea, has reached full capacity, and the importance of the Middle Corridor has increased accordingly. However, in order to increase export revenues, it is necessary to come up with railway-port integration plans for ports without railway infrastructure and to open additional Ro-Ro lines.
 Julia Fiedler, “Disruptions along the Iron Silk Road”, Table China, https://table.media/china/en/feature/disruptions-on-the-rail-silk-road/, (Date of Accession: 22.09.2022).
 “BTK Hattında Yük Taşımacılığı Katlanarak Artıyor”, TCDD Taşımacılık, https://www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr/haber/590/, (Date of Accession: 22.09.2022).
 “Turkey’s Multilateral Transportation Policy”, Republic of Türkiye Ministry of Foreign Affairs, https://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkey_s-multilateral-transportation-policy.en.mfa, (Date of Accession: 22.09.2022).
 “2021 Yılı Faaliyet Raporu”, s. 52, TCDD Taşımacılık, https://www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr/uploads/images/Strateji/TCDD-Tasimacilik-2021-Faaliyet-Raporu.pdf, (Date of Accession: 22.09.2022).
 Soner Esmer, “Rusya-Ukrayna Savaşının Ulaştırma Coğrafyasına Etkileri”, 7deniz, https://www.7deniz.net/yazar-rusya-ukrayna-savasinin-ulastirma-cografyasina-etkileri-294.html, (Date of Accession: 23.09.2022).
 “Azerbaijan’s Role in Cargo Transportation from China to Europe to Increase”, Report News Agency, https://report.az/en/infrastructure/azerbaijan-s-role-in-cargo-transportation-from-china-to-europe-to-increase/, (Date of Accession: 23.09.2022).
 “China-Europe Transportation Volumes Through the Middle Corridor Expected to Triple This Year – ady Container”, Report News Agency, https://report.az/en/infrastructure/china-europe-transportation-volumes-through-the-middle-corridor-expected-to-triple-this-year-ady-container/?ysclid=l5teqa2vo6701330926, (Date of Accession: 23.09.2022).
 Andreea Brinza, “Putin’s War Has Killed China’s Eurasian Railway Dreams”, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/01/belt-road-initiative-new-eurasian-land-bridge-china-russia-poland/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).
 Wilder Alejandro Sánchez-Kamila Auyezova, “The Trans-Caspian Corridor: Kazakhstan’s Silk Road?”, The Diplomat, https://thediplomat.com/2022/05/the-trans-caspian-corridor-kazakhstans-silk-road/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).
 Majorie van Leijen, “A Bypass Route To Duisburg: Is This The New Normal?”, RailFreight, https://www.railfreight.com/beltandroad/2022/03/08/a-bypass-route-to-duisburg-is-this-the-new-normal/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).
 “RO-RO Araç İstatistikleri”, T.C Ulaştırma ve Altyapı Bakanlığı, https://denizcilikistatistikleri.uab.gov.tr/ro-ro-arac-istatistikleri, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).
 “Ro-Ro: Intermodal’s Player On The Sea”, Unimar, https://globelink-unimar.com/ro-ro-intermodals-player-on-the-sea/, (Date of Accession: 24.09.2022).
 “İstanbul-Novorossisk Ro-Ro Seferleri Başlıyor”, DenizHaber.com, https://www.denizhaber.com/istanbul-novorossisk-ro-ro-seferleri-basliyor, (Date of Accession: 25.09.2022).
 “Turkey’s Multilateral Transportation Policy”, op. cit.