EghtesadOnline: Iran and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding on expanding transportation cooperation between the two sides in the rail sector in Moscow on Friday.
The comprehensive rail cooperation MoU was signed by Iran’s Roads and Urban Development Minister Rostam Qasemi and his Russian counterpart, Vitaly Savelyev.
“We hope this agreement will further increase our transportation cooperation. The International North-South Transportation Corridor can serve as the main project connecting Russia, Iran, Central Asian countries and Caucasia. We also hope that by collaborating with each other, we can complete the Rasht-Astara railroad,” Savelyev was also quoted as saying by News.mrud.ir.
Qasemi said the Rasht-Astara railroad is the shortest and most cost-effective route in the region and its operation will significantly increase trade and transit between Iran and Russia.
INSTC is a major transit route designed to facilitate the transportation of goods from Mumbai in India to Helsinki in Finland, using Iranian ports and railroads, which the Islamic Republic plans to connect to those of Azerbaijan and Russia.
The corridor 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.
INSTC would substantially cut travel time for everything from Asian consumer goods to Central Eurasia’s natural resources to advanced European exports.
Azerbaijan is investing $500 million in the construction of a 167-km standard gauge line to link the Astara terminal with the Iranian rail network in Rasht.
"The north-south transit route, which the two countries are currently participating in for the implementation of the Rasht-Astara railroad project means a more convenient, cheaper and shorter route for the two countries, countries of the region and even for Asia, Europe and Africa indicate that our cooperation is in the interest of the peoples of the region and the world,” said then president, Hassan Rouhani, at the Azerbaijan-Iran Business Forum in March 2019.
His Azerbaijani counterpart President Ilham Aliyev said the Rasht-Astara railroad would be "built in a short span of time, opening new opportunities for the entire Eurasian region”.
According to Kazem Jalali, Iran’s ambassador to Moscow, the Rasht-Astara railroad will be a great means to expand Iran’s economic relations with Russia.
He said the railroad will connect Iran’s economy from the east to the west and the implementation of this project is crucial for the country’s economy.
Jalali noted that Russia has realized the importance of Rasht-Astara railroad and is determined to utilize this route in the future.
The Astara–Rasht–Qazvin railroad will provide a faster and more reliable connection from Russia and Azerbaijan to Iran. Presently, all freight is transshipped at the Astara terminal from wagons to lorries for farther transportation across Iran. The Rasht-Qazvin section was launched in March 2019, but the Astara-Rasht stretch has yet to be launched.