Pak-Iran-Turkey Train Service to Resume Operations This Week


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After a nine-year hiatus, Pakistan has announced on Tuesday that the transnational cargo train connecting the South Asian country to Turkey via neighboring Iran will be resuming service this week. This train made its first journey in 2009, with the goal of improving trade and communication between the three Islamic countries.

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

Though, after an exchange of 14 freight trains between Turkey and Pakistan, the service was suspended in late 2011 credited to logistical challenges, pending infrastructure developments, and security concerns.

Abdul Razak Dawood, an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan for commerce and investment, while announcing the revival of the cargo service, said the “Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad” train will complete the one-side trip in about 12 days. It will have a capacity of transporting 750 metric tons of commercial goods, as per the minister.

He fully wrote;

“We are glad to note that Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) Freight Train will resume operations from 4 Mar-2021 after nine years. It will complete the one-side trip in 12-days, with capacity to move 750 MT of goods. This is a testament of friendship between the three countries and will go a long way in facilitating movement of goods between Pakistan, Iran & Turkey. I congratulate Azam Senator for making this possible. I call on our exporters to take benefit of this alternative route & mode of transport and contact MOC for any facilitation.”

Railways Headquarters has issued instructions to finalize arrangements in this regard as well. Habib-ur-Rehman Gilani, Chairman Pakistan Railways confirmed and added, “it is starting from Istanbul on 4th March.” It will come to Zahidan after a time frame of 180 hrs. As per reports, its destination is Karachi but it is yet to be confirmed. It will carry 24 containers of 40 ft.

Traders and experts have applauded the announcement, claiming that the 6,500-kilometer railway line will save money, speed up cargo and container transport, and cut travel time in half. The goods can take up to 45 days to arrive in Pakistan from European countries though, via the sea route.

Before entering or leaving Iran, the train will pass through Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan border province. Baluch separatists regularly stage attacks on government forces and installations in Pakistan’s violence-plagued region. In the province, militants linked to the Islamic State terror group operate and have claimed responsibility for some of the recent deadly attacks.


Officials claim that recent security operations targeting militants have aided in the stabilization of the situation in Baluchistan. They also point to the construction of a strong fence along Pakistan’s over 900-kilometer traditionally porous border with Iran, which has allowed militants to freely move in either direction until now.

According to Pakistani military officials, more than 45 percent of the Iranian border has been fenced in, with the remainder expected to be finished by the end of the year. They expect the border management effort to aid in the prevention of commercial goods smuggling across the Pakistan-Iran border, as well as other illegal activities.

Baluchistan is home to major infrastructure projects funded by China as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The multibillion-dollar project is hailed as a key component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The CPEC has upgraded and constructed new road networks, as well as operationalized Gwadar, Pakistan’s deep-water port on the Arabian Sea. The two countries are also getting ready to begin work on upgrading Pakistan’s main railway line, which will cost $6.8 billion.


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