Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pakistan prepares for freight rail link with Iran, Turkey

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Pakistan will mark its independence day August 14 with the launch of through freight rail service, including container traffic, linking its capital, Islamabad, with Istanbul, Turkey, via Tehran, Iran’s capital. The route spans 6,506 kilometers, or 4,036 miles, including 1,900 kilometers (1,178 miles) in Pakistan, 2,570 kilometers (1,593 miles) in Iran,  and 2,036 kilometers (1,262 miles) in Turkey.

Pakistan Federal Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said that if the freight service succeeded, a passenger train would also be introduced on the route. He also expressed hope that Pakistan Railways would eventually launch train service to and from Europe through Turkey.

Bilour said trade volume among Pakistan, Iran and Turkey was roughly $15 billion and increasing, and the three nations concur that the best way to reduce the cost of goods was to link the three countries of the Economic Coordination Organization with rail service.

Track gauge remains a problem; Pakistan’s rail lines are mostly broad gauge, while Iran’s railroads are standard gauge. Iran will provide transhipment facilities at Zahedan station until a standard gauge line is laid between Zahedan-Mirjaveh and Quetta.

Pakistan also has agreed to form a consortium with China on various projects, including the laying of railway track up to Iran and Afghanistan and construction of passenger railcars in Pakistan. A six-member committee would oversee the projects, with three members appointed by China and three by Pakistan.

Bilour said Pakistan has placed an order to China for 200 passenger coaches, of which 150 would be built in Pakistan.