Islamabad: Taking the first major move towards regional connectivity, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran have launched the freight train project on Tuesday from Islamabad. The three countries also plan to launch a passenger train on the same route in near future.
Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) freight train began its journey from Islamabad railway station towards its first destination in Zahedan, Iran, from where the Turkish train will lift the goods and proceed towards Istanbul.
The beginning of the train service is a “significant step towards regional connectivity which will unlock immense trade potential as the train is the cheapest mode of transportation in the world,” Amjad Ali, director-general of the ITI train project, told Gulf News. The train has the capacity to carry a maximum of 80,000 tonnes of goods.
Open doors of connectivity
Minister of Railways Azam Khan Swati along with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Commerce Advisor Razak Dawood inaugurated the ITI freight train service. Ambassador of Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also attended the train departure ceremony.
Azam Swati said that the “ITI train service will open the doors for business and connectivity in the region”. The project offers the shortest and most affordable route for transportation of goods between Asia and Europe, benefiting regional countries. Appreciating the endeavours of Pakistan’s business community, he urged them to make the most of the opportunities offered by the rail corridor.
Regional economic activity
Foreign Minister Qureshi said that the rail corridor “will play an important role in regional connectivity and will promote economic activity in the region.” He hoped that passenger trains will also begin on the same route following the smooth operations of the freight train. Razak Dawood termed it a historic day which “will be long remembered” as the beginning of regional connectivity and prosperity.
Turkish Ambassador Mustafa Yurdakul expressed hope that the train service will not stop at Istanbul but go all the way to Europe which will benefit all regional countries as the economies bounce back in the post-COVID era.
Reduce time and cost
The train will take less than 12 days to complete the one-side trip of nearly 6,656 kilometres. The train has a maximum capacity of twenty 40-feet containers.
The first cargo train comprised 13 containers that will transport rice, dates and pink salt via two freight forwarders, Maxtelz Logistics and Haroon Brothers. “The train service will greatly reduce the cost of transit of goods from Pakistan to Turkey which usually takes at least 30 days via the sea,” Gohar Zia, director of Maxtelz Logistics, told Gulf News.
“This is a highly encouraging development for the business community and offers Pakistan potential to earn $32m annually and this potential can be doubled if the corridor is connected to other railway stations in Sialkot, Faisalabad, Lahore, Karachi and Rohri” to transport goods to Turkey, Europe and Central Asia from Pakistan.
The ITI railway project was first started in 2009 under the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) but remained suspended due to technical issues.