March 17, 2017
Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan have agreed to halve the rail freight charges between them in an effort to activate the North-South Transport Corridor, which aims to connect India to Europe by rail.
The agreement was reached last Tuesday in Moscow. An official with the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IRIR), Hossain Ashouri, was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying all sides hope to activate the rail corridor later in 2017.
The transit route is designed to facilitate the transportation of goods from Mumbai to Helsinki, using Iranian ports and railroads, which the Islamic Republic plans is working to connect to those of Azerbaijan and Russia.
IRIR is currently building a short rail link from the Iranian Caspian port of Astara to the border with Azerbaijan, from where it will be extended to another city also named Astara in Azerbaijan.
A completed section of the railroad was tested late Friday after a train set off on a maiden journey from Azerbaijan’s Astara. The train traveled 8 kilometers to the border from where it entered the Iranian section of the route.
Younes Ranjkesh, governor of the northeastern Iranian port, said last week that Iran has started laying tracks on the Iranian section, adding that in the first phase, track-laying for 0.6 kilometers will be carried out.
The Astara-Astara project includes a bridge over the Astara-chay River, which comprises the border. The bridge was built by Azerbaijan.
Ashouri said the 2-km-long Iranian section will be completed in two months.
Soon after the border project is complete, Tehran and Baku will start work on its extension to the city of Rasht in northern Gilan Province.
Azerbaijan has agreed to invest $500 million to build the railroad line.
Another missing link is a route from Qazvin to Rasht. The construction of this section is in the final stage. The route includes Iran’s biggest rail bridge with a length of 1.43 km over the Sefidroud river in the city of Manjil in Gilan Province.
“The Qazvin-Rasht route will become operational in three months at most,” Ashouri said.
To fill the missing rail link from Rasht to Astara, the Islamic Republic will temporarily use trucks.