EghtesadOnline: The railroad connecting Iran’s northwestern city of Astara to the eponymous Azerbaijani city has been completed and will come on stream next week, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi announced.
Akhoundi, who is visiting India, noted that the 164-kilometer-long Qazvin-Rasht rail connection, with an estimated value of 25 trillion rials (over $650 million), will be completed in the next three months, Mehr News Agency reported on Thursday.
The Astara-Astara Railroad, which is part of a bigger project to connect Iran and Azerbaijan’s rail system, runs 8 kilometers in Azerbaijan up to the border from where it extends 2 km to Iran’s port city of Astara. The project includes a bridge on Astarachay River, which stretches along the border.
Tehran and Baku are working to connect their railroads as part of the International North-South Transportation Corridor, which is aimed at connecting Northern Europe with Southeast Asia, according to Financial Tribune.
A completed section of the railroad was tested in March 2017 after a train set off on a maiden journey from Azerbaijan’s Astara. The train travelled 8 kilometers to the border from where it entered the Iranian section of the route.
The railroad, passing through woods and mountains, includes 25 kilometers of tunnels and 8.7 kilometers of bridges, making its construction difficult.
The route includes Iran’s biggest rail bridge with a length of 1.43 km on the river of Sefidroud in the city of Manjil, Gilan Province.
Qazvin-Rasht is a missing link in INSTC, which will connect Iran with Russia’s Baltic ports and give Russia rail connectivity to both the Persian Gulf and the Indian rail network.
This means goods could be carried from Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and further to Baku. They could then pass across the Russian border into Astrakhan before proceeding to Moscow and St. Petersburg, before entering Europe.
The corridor would substantially cut the travel time for everything from Asian consumer goods to Central Eurasia’s natural resources to advanced European exports.
When completed, the INSTC is expected to increase the volume of commodities currently traded between Iran and Azerbaijan from 600,000 tons to 5 million tons per year, dramatically increasing bilateral trade from the current $500 million per year.
Head of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC, Javid Gurbanov, has said the construction of the Rasht-Astara railroad within the framework of the INSTC project will start in the first half of 2018, adding that Azerbaijan has already allocated a loan worth $500 million to Iran.
The opening of the 164-kilometer section is planned for 2020 and at that time, we will be able to go from Baku to Nakhichevan by train,” he was quoted as saying by Trend News Agency in November.