EghtesadOnline: A cargo train from Russia loaded with 330 tons of wood worth around $132,000 arrived in Iran’s northern border city of Astara on Saturday, the governor of the city, Younes Ranjkesh, said.
“The train traversed over 4,300 kilometers to reach Astara where it unloaded its cargo at the dock,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
This is the second such train to take the route. The first arrived in Iran’s Astara from Russia’s St. Petersburg on Feb. 8, marking the inauguration of a cross-border strand of the International North-South Transportation Corridor.
The train, carrying 55 tons of MDF sheets, made its journey through Azerbaijan, using the so-called Astara-Astara Railroad, which connects the Iranian city of Astara with an eponymous city from across the border, Financial Tribune reported.
According to Abbas Nazari, director general of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways’ International Affairs Office, the Astara-Astara route will officially be inaugurated in the first month of the next Iranian year (starting March 21) in the presence of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev.
“IRIR is also in talks with Azerbaijani and Russian rail officials to run passenger trains from Astara to Moscow on this route, in addition to commercial trains,” Nazari said.
The Astara-Astara Railroad runs 8 kilometers in Azerbaijan up to the border from where it extends 2 km to Iran’s port city of Astara.
The project also includes a bridge on Astarachay River, which stretches along the border. Tehran and Baku are working to connect their railroads as part of the INSTC project, which is aimed at connecting Northern Europe with Southeast Asia.
INSTC 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 in India 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.
The corridor’s missing links in Iran include a railroad connecting the cities of Qazvin and Rasht as well as another connecting Rasht to Astara.
Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said in January that the 164-kilometer-long Qazvin-Rasht rail connection will be completed in the next three months.
Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Kheirollah Khademi said last month that more than $300 million have been invested on this route and some $150 million more are needed for it to become operational, adding that construction work on the railroad has made 80% progress.