In a surprise announcement, Russia will build a rail line in Iran from Rasht on the Caspian Sea to the Azerbaijan border.
The decision by Russia seems to have come out of exasperation with Iran for failing to build the line on time. It was supposed to open last year. The 170-kilometer (106-mile) line from Rasht to Astara is of more interest to Russia than Iran since it is the missing link allowing Russia to send goods by rail to Southeast Asia.
The president of Iranian Railways, Mohsen Pour-Seyed-Aqaei, and the chairman of the Council of the Board and president of Russian Railways JSC, Vladimir Yakunin, discussed six rail projects, Iran’s state broadcasting reported.
Rail traffic to the Soviet Union from Iran went for decades through Julfa into Azerbaijan, then Armenia and on to Russia. But with the breakup of the Soviet Union and open warfare between Armenia and Azerbaijan, that rail link has been closed for more than two decades.
To get the Russia-Iran link going again, a new line was proposed from Qazvin, on Iran’s main line to the northwest, across the mountains to Rasht on the Caspian coast and then up the Caspian coastline to Astara on the border.
That will connect Western Europe to Southeast Asia.
The Qazvin-Rasht section with a length of 205 kilometers (127 miles) has been completed by Iran. But Iran said it then ran out of funds.
Presumably this means that Russia will pay for as well as build the Rasht-Astara line, but the announcement avoided that detail.
The rail line had been scheduled to be inaugurated last year, then this year. Now the plan is to open it next year.