Pakistan Railways has decided to resume the trilateral container train from March 4 to connect Pakistan with Iran and Turkey. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Having been suspended for nearly a decade, Pakistan and Turkey are set to resume freight train service this month.

Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) cargo train is likely to resume operations on March 4 from Istanbul and reach Pakistan on March 16 via Iran, according to Pakistan media reports.

The railways of Pakistan, Turkey and Iran mutually agreed last year to resume regular operations to boost economic cooperation among the three countries.

The railway service between Pakistan and Turkey first started in 2009 as a project under the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) but was cancelled in 2011 due to logistical challenges.

The officials of the three countries decided to resume operations in 2021 during the virtual meeting of the 10-member Asian trade bloc, ECO. Pakistan Railways Freight Transportation Company will be the focal organization for coordination in Islamabad.

Reduce time and cost

The train will take almost 12 days to complete the one-side trip of nearly 6,500 kilometres. The railway line would greatly reduce the transit route of the goods from Istanbul to Islamabad as transporting goods from European countries to Pakistan via the sea took almost 45 days. The train has a maximum capacity of twenty 40-feet containers.

The project offers the shortest and most affordable route for transportation of goods between Asia and Europe, benefiting several regional countries.

Besides Pakistan, Turkey and Iran, the countries expected to benefit from the ITI project: include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Experts have suggested further expansion to the European and Middle East markets to unlock the potential of the rail service.

The total length of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul rail route is 6,500 km while the estimated travel time is 11 days as compared to 45 days via sea rout. It is the shortest land route connecting South Asia with Europe