OVER TWO MILLION TOURISTS AND COUNTING: GEORGIAN RAILWAYS GAINS TRACTION WITH NEW TRAINS, SERVICES
Since January, over a million tourists have traveled on Georgian railways, taking advantage of new services and new schedules. Investor.ge spoke with Georgian Railways about its new double-decker trains, and other new innovations planned for this year.
New trains, new schedules, newly trained staff - Georgian Railways is ushering in a new generation of train travel for locals and foreigners alike.
One of the most visible changes will be the fleet of double-decker trains, scheduled for the Tbilisi-Batumi-Tbilisi route this summer.
The trains, purchased from Switzerland, will seat 400 passengers, up from the current 275, and shave 30 minutes from the five-hour Tbilisi-Batumi trip. The government spent $40 million to purchase four trains; two trains will arrive in July and two are scheduled to arrive in 2017. The price of tickets, currently between 24 and 40 lari on the fast train, will not change.
Better Trains, Better Services
Dachi Tsaguria, the Head of the Press Office at Georgian Railways, told Investor.ge that the new trains will provide the latest in services, including easy-access doors and restrooms for disabled passengers. In addition, the railway is improving customer service. Staff members are being trained at Ilia State University in a number of areas, and the railway is using "mystery passengers" to check how staff is treating passengers in real time.
"In 2019, this project of Georgian Railways will be completed. [The project] aims to provide maximum safety, increase the conducting capacity and decrease of the time of traveling. New tunnels and bridges have been built, and we are also working on a new route. We are also modernizing the existing routes," Tsaguria said. The $264 million project also includes a new 962-meter tunnel in Imereti, which Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili opened on July 5, together with Georgian Railways and the Partnership Fund. In addition, 22 kilometers of track from Khashuri to Moliti are being upgraded, as are 23 kilometers of the Kharagauli-Zestaphoni route. A total of six new tunnels will be built as part of the expansion plans. The changes will eventually help shave off another hour of travel for travelers and cargo, Tsaguria said.
More Trains, More Routes
Georgian Railways has also added more trains to existing routes to meet growing demand. The number of foreign tourists travelling by train in Georgia has steadily increased over the past two years, according to Georgian Railways.
This year, over two million international passengers purchased train tickets in the first six months of the year, a 12.9 percent increase from last year. In 2015, the number increased 18.1 percent compared to the same period in 2014.To accommodate the growing number of travelers, four trains are running daily on the Tbilisi-Batumi-Tbilisi route, with a capacity to seat 300 passengers in each direction. The earliest train leaves Tbilisi at 7:20 in the morning and returns to the capital at 10:00 in the evening. There are also four trains running from Kutaisi-Batumi-Kutaisi, with the first train leaving Kutaisi at 8:35 in the morning and returning to the country's second capital at 9:30 in the evening.
Tickets are available at train stations, as well as online, at www.railway.ge.