Iran and Turkey signed three joint documents to maximize rail transport (passengers and freights) between the two countries, said the CEO of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IRIR).
Saeid Rasouli described as essential expansion of rail cooperation between the two friendly and neighboring states, adding in light of the rail sector MoUs and collaborations, “we have broken the freight transport record amid the COVID-19 pandemic”, IRNA reported.
“During March 20-December 20, 2020, we transported over 500,000 tons of cargoes, which will reach 600,000 tons by March 20, 2021. That is a very good record.”
Rasouli said the two countries have reached an agreement to develop East-West Corridor and facilitate transport from China, Afghanistan and Pakistan to Turkey through Iran, noting that the signing of the documents will help accelerate development of the transport routs from China to Europe and Turkey to Afghanistan and Pakistan and the linking of Iran’s southern ports with Turkey.
He stressed that the transnational transport corridor, known as Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) railway, is expected to be linked to China’s Belt and Road Initiative given the completion of China-Turkey railway.
Iran, Turkey and Pakistan plan to revive a railway line connecting Istanbul to Tehran and Islamabad and ultimately extend it to China, Tokyo-based newsmagazine Nikkei Asia reported earlier.
The three countries launched a container train service in 2009, but it only got as far as test runs and was never fully operational, according to Press TV.
Even so, they always planned to follow up the initial freight trains with passenger services and are now willing to launch the ITI transnational line with the aim of enhancing connectivity with China's BRI, the report said.
The railroad service, stretching for 6,540 kilometers, will cut the 21-day journey by sea between Pakistan and Turkey to 10 days. And by extension, it will connect to China's Xinjiang autonomous region which is populated by ethnically Turkic Uighur Muslims, Nikkei said.
According to Lukasz Przybyszewski, a West Asia analyst for the Asia Research Center at Warsaw's War Studies Academy, the ITI railroad would further boost China's BRI, a trillion-dollar plan to connect the infrastructure and economies of countries across Asia, Africa and Europe.
Przybyszewski believes that Beijing regards Iranian transport infrastructure in particular as part of BRI.
But a flurry of investment plans in Iran by China was put on the back burner when the US reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic in 2018.
Experts believe the ITI railroad will help Iran move around US sanctions, Nikkei said.
"For Tehran, this is an attractive alternative trade route because the ECO countries trade in local currencies," Przybyszewski told the publication.
ECO stands for the Economic Cooperation Organization, a 10-member political and economic intergovernmental organization founded in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
Under President Donald Trump, the US has been following a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran in order to isolate the country through severing all modes of international trade with the country.