December 22nd, 2011
10:02 AM GMT
Editor's note: "Along the Silk Road" is a weekly segment on Global Exchange, that will explore the burgeoning trade and investment links from the Middle East to Asia. Watch Global Exchange, on CNN International, Sunday to Thursday 1100 ET, 1600 GMT and 1700 CET.
Baku, Azerbaijan (CNN) – Azerbaijan was once known as the gateway between China and Europe, where ancient transport links were crucial in transporting goods east to west on the silk trading route. Now, in the capital Baku, authorities are developing the country's transport infrastructure to claim Azerbaijan as a central stop on the new Silk Road.
“The road to development begins with the development of roads, so clearly it's a very crucial element of allowing the flow of goods between people so that markets can function,” Joseph Owen, World Bank manager for Azerbaijan, told CNN’s Becky Anderson.
Today the region is focused is on the TRACECA project - a Transport Corridor of Europe, the Caucuses and Asia.
Azerbaijan is located in the very center of the TRACECA project and it's a gateway to both Europe and Asia.
Just a three-hour drive from Baku, work is underway on the Sahil to Tagayev highway. When finished it will connect two major arterial routes.
“This road, before the construction, was in very poor condition,” says supervising engineer Zoran Veselinovic. “Now with the reconstruction we expect it will have enormous impact on the connections of China and Russia and Iran and so on.”
Akif Mustafayev, Azerbaijan National Secretary for TRACECA, says the program has led to a boom in cargo transportation. “In 1995 only 335,000 tons of cargo were delivered to Europe via Azerbaijan - this grew to 85 million in 2010,” he explains.
The repaving and restoration of the Silk Road is essential, as local governments realize, as their ancestors did, the value of good transport links between East and West.
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