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ECO railway to help develop West Asia

Pakistan Railways Organization has declared that it will resume regular operation of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) container train after nearly decade-long interruption on March 4, 2021.

Habib-ur-Rehman Gilani, Chairman Pakistan Railways confirmed that the train with 24 containers will start trip from Istanbul in Turkey and will reach Zahedan in Iran after 180 hours, and then will leave for Karachi in Pakistan.

Gilani noted that the train will go through 6,566 kilometers in the three countries.

The first cargo train started work on August 14, 2009, but it stopped working after a while because of security concerns.

South China Morning Post reported that Iranian, Turkish and Pakistani officials try to revitalize the ITI railway, adding despite some pilot trips, the railroad has not yet been completed.

It is worth mentioning that setting up the railway can increase trade exchanges even in other countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and five states of Central Asia.

A train can pass the 6,500 kilometer-long distance between Pakistan and Turkey in only 11.5 days, while travelling from Pakistan to Turkey through waterways takes around 45 days. 

According to some reports, the railway is scheduled to connect Xinjiang in China to Mainline-1 in Pakistan, which is going to double speed of trains. It is one of the main projects of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

***Causes of the delay

Despite the fact that the railway project will bring abundant economic benefits for the region, it has not yet become operational because of different reasons, including illegal sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran as well as lack of appropriate infrastructure to develop the railroad and the need for reconstructing of railroads in Pakistan to be able to be connected to international railways.

The railroads of Pakistan were built around one century ago and require reconstruction to meet international standards. Pakistan plans to invest 694 million dollars in railroads.

***Flourishing regional trade

Experts believe that the operation of Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad railway will flourish trade exchanges and help economic growth in the region.

Since most of the regional countries, including Pakistan, Turkey and Iran are determined to find the best routes for transferring their commodities, they try to develop infrastructure, use state-of-the-art technologies and invest in transit lines.

The railway will provide passengers with cheaper and more secure method for travel and will flourish tourism in the region.

***Iran’s unique role

Iran as a country has played a key role in transferring commodities because of its strategic location, which connects Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe.

The Islamic Republic connected its railroad network to Afghanistan’s railways and intends to expand its railway system in the future.

The inauguration of Khaf-Herat railroad at the presence of Afghan and Iranian presidents on December 10, 2020 can play a big role in exchange of goods and services between traders of both countries.

Iran is going to implement different projects to connect its southern ports to international destinations through railway network; so, the country’s railroad will play a key role in Asian transportation.

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