Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train to launch in 2021, connecting Asia with Europe

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Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul freight train to be revived

The Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) freight train is expected to resume operations in early 2021 to boost Pakistan’s trade with Turkey and Iran.

The railways of Pakistan, Turkey and Iran have mutually agreed to resume regular operations soon, said Turkey’s Transport Minister, Adil Karaismailoğlu, after the 10th edition of the Economic Cooperation Organization’s (ECO) Transport and Communications Ministers Meeting in Istanbul.

The key requirements for the revival of the ITI train, also called the ECO Container train have been fulfilled. The train is expected to resume operations in 2021.

ECO project

The trial run of the ITI train was launched in 2009 as a project under the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) – 10-member Asian trade bloc. The rail route, which is recognized by the UN as an international corridor between the three countries, has so far only been used for test journeys.

Reduce freight time and cost

The railway line intends to greatly reduce the transit route of the goods from Istanbul to Islamabad. During the trial, the freight train from Islamabad to Istanbul took nearly 13 days to make the 6500km journey. The journey was later further reduced to 11.5 days. In comparison, transporting goods from European countries to Pakistan via seaway took almost 45 days. The train has a maximum capacity for twenty 40-feet containers.

Length of rail route

The total length of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul project is 6500 kilometers (km).

  • Iran: 2600 km
  • Turkey: 1950 km
  • Pakistan: 1990 km

Boost trade

The railway line from Istanbul, through Tehran, all the way to Islamabad has been described as “tremendously beneficial” to all three nations. It aims to boost economic cooperation among Pakistan, Iran and Turkey first and with the other ECO member countries afterward.

Besides Pakistan, Turkey and Iran, these countries will benefit from the ITI project: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Possibility of expansion to Europe

Although the project was launched to promote the economic relations among the ECO founding member countries, however, it offers a short, safe, and affordable route for transportation of goods between Asia and Europe, extending benefits to several regional countries. From Turkey, the corridor can link up with the European rail networks via Istanbul’s 76-km long undersea Marmaray railway tunnel.

Other countries earlier also expressed eagerness to join the project and suggested further expansion to the European and Middle East markets.

Highlights of Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul rail corridor

  • Service to facilitate cargo and container transport
  • Transport capacity: 20 containers of 40 feet
  • Estimated travel time is 11 days as compared to 45 days via sea route
  • Over 30% reduction in rail fares as opposed to traditional routes