French firm snaps up Iran railway deal
France’s architectural firm AREP signed an agreement on Wednesday for redevelopment of three railway stations in Iran, marking a return of European companies as nuclear negotiations with Tehran are reaching a climax.
AREP, which is wholly owned by France’s national state-owned railway company SNCF, will rebuild the stations in the Iranian capital, Tehran, as well as the holy cities of Mashhad and Qom which attract millions of pilgrims every year.
The company’s founder and head of its board of directors Etienne Tricaud said the architecture and historical identity of the stations will be preserved in his company’s plan to design and redevelop them.
“The Tehran Railway Station, with 80 years of age, is not compatible with president-day needs. We have to present a comprehensive plan for 170 hectares of land at this station so that high-speech inner-city and suburban trains as well as electric and metro trains can transport passengers in the city center,” he said.
For Mashhad, AREP will design a railway station and two terminals in order to increase its capacity.
It will also modernize the Qom Railway Station for the traffic of high-speed trains on the Tehran-Qom-Isfahan line.
The deal follows a recent visit by Iran’s Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi to Paris where he visited the French capital’s railway station and AREP’s officials.
On Tuesday, it was reported that about 100 French companies were making plans to send a joint delegation to Tehran in September to review business and investment opportunities in Iran.
According to French diplomatic sources, businesspeople have met with the country’s diplomats recently only to be told that there is “no time to waste” in resuming economic ties with Iran.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius plans to visit Tehran if a final nuclear agreement is signed with the Islamic Republic, they said.
In Paris, Akhoundi warned France about being shut out of Iran’s market, including about $80 billion worth of business in the transport sector if French companies fail to take timely decision on resuming cooperation with Tehran. 8