EghtesadOnline: The major project to electrify the 430-kilometer-long railroad connecting the city of Garmsar in Semnan Province with the city of Incheh Borun to its northeast in Golestan Province is starting on July 2, the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways' deputy for technical and infrastructure affairs said.
“The railroad, from Garmsar on the Tehran–Mashhad main line to Incheh Borun on the border with Turkmenistan, is part of a transit route connecting Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Amirabad Port in Iran’s northern Mazandaran Province. The electrification project will take around four years to complete,” Maziar Yazdani was also quoted as saying by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.
The official added that besides the electrification of the route, which will help reduce environmental pollution and end liquid fuel consumption, the application and positioning of signals and adjustment of tunnel sizes, track laying and telecoms upgrading will be carried out simultaneously.
The project also covers the supply of maintenance vehicles and electric locomotives, as well as extension of technical assistance, during the first year of the project, Financial Tribune reported.
A contract worth €1.2 billion was signed for this project between Iran and Russia in 2015.
“As per the agreement, electric locomotives will be manufactured inside Iran and in cooperation with Iranian firms,” Mohsen Pourseyyed-Aqaei, former managing director of IRIR, said at the time.
The official added that the implementation of the project would raise transit capacity to 8 million tons per year.
The project is to be financed by Russian banks.
The state railroad monopoly Russian Railways considers its Iranian projects for railroad electrification completely civilian and not subject to US sanctions, the company's CEO Oleg Belozerov said in an interview with Sputnik in May.
"In Iran, we will be engaged in electrification, which is related directly to rail transport. We believe that this is a completely civilian project that does not fall under the [US] sanctions, but we are clarifying it," Belozerov said.
Russian Railways completed another similar project in Iran in 2012: The electrification of Tabriz-Azarshahr Railroad.
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Another major rail electrification project is underway on the 926-km railroad from Tehran to the eastern city of Mashhad in Khorasan Razavi Province, which is expected to increase the speed of the line from the current 160 kph to 200 kph.
"We hope to be able to transport 35 million passengers via this line every year," Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi has been quoted as saying.
The minister said in December 2017 that Iran had paid its $200 million share of the project financing, as China opened a line of credit worth $1.5 billion for the same.
The financing contract had been signed in Tehran on July 26 between Exim Bank of China and Iran’s Bank of Industry and Mine.
This was reportedly the first and largest LOC to have been made available for Iran after international nuclear-related sanctions against the country were lifted in January 2016, following the signing of a landmark agreement between Tehran and world powers a year earlier.
The electrification project is being carried out by China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation, otherwise known as CMC. Iran’s MAPNA Group is the main contractor of the project.
The railroad is a strand of the New Silk Road–a 2,300-kilometer Chinese railroad that ultimately links Urumqi, the capital of China’s western Xinjiang Province, to the Iranian capital Tehran, connecting Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan along the way, according to China’s state-owned paper China Daily.
From Tehran, the grand project will join Iran’s east-west network leading to Turkey and eastern Europe. It could also open a way to Europe via a developing rail route from southern Iranian ports to Azerbaijan and Europe.
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Abbas Nazari, the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways’ International Affairs Department, said an important element of Iranian cooperation is the International North-South Transport Corridor that begins in Europe and extends to India via Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran.
"We seek to ensure that Iranian railroads become the primary transit element of the corridor. The length of the Iranian segment of the corridor is about 2,000 kilometers," he said.
Russia is also in cooperation with Iran for the joint manufacture of railroad cars.
The Industrial Development and Renovation Organization signed a €2.5 billion contract with Russia’s CJSC Transmashholding in Tehran on July 31 for the joint production of rolling stock in Iran.
Based on the contract, a joint venture will be formed between IDRO and the Russian company, with the Russian side holding an 80% stake and the Iranian side 20%.
On December 18, 2017, Russia signed a deal with Iran to finance €3 billion for the joint manufacture of 20,000 freight cars, 1,000 passenger cars, 350 locomotives and rail transportation equipment.