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A rail freight service linking Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul has been relaunched, a decade after the last attempt to develop services on the 6 500 km route.
The ISI train was despatched with a ceremony in Islamabad on December 21, and reached Ankara on January 3 before continuing to Istanbul.
The Economic Cooperation Organization co-ordinated the operation of a westbound demonstration train in August 2009 and an eastbound train in 2010, but the project was suspended in 2011 after eight westbound and six eastbound services had run.
ECO’s Director for Transport & Communication, Akbar Khodaei, said the revived ITI service would provide export opportunities for Pakistan, while Iran could become an important transshipment and transit hub, and Turkey could further develop its role as a bridge between Asia and Europe.
Freight forwarders Maxtel Logistics and Haroon Brothers are using the service, with the first train carrying goods including Himalayan salt and the second train which departed on December 28 carrying soapstone. The train is initially being operated using using conventional wagons, but intermodal operations are planned; there is a break of gauge between Pakistan’s 1 676 mm gauge and Iran’s 1 435 mm gauge networks at Zahedan in Iran, and a study by ECO has found that multi-modal transport could provide opportunities to transport goods to and from places without rail connections.
It is envisaged that a journey time of around 10 days could be achieved, compared to around 35 days by sea. Iran’s Ambassador to Turkey Mohammad Farazmand said a passenger service is also planned for the near future.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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