Another step to materialize the dream of regional connectivity
On January 05, the first Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) train, carrying goods from Pakistan to Turkey via Iran, rolled into the Turkish capital of Ankara. Departing from the Margalla station in Islamabad, the train embarked on its 5,981-kilometre (3,666-mile) journey on Dec. 21, 2021, and reached Ankara in 12 days and 21 hours.
It is to be noted here that the cargo train service connecting the three countries was resumed after a gap of 10 years. The first train from Islamabad to Istanbul was inaugurated on Aug. 14, 2009. Since then, eight trains have been dispatched from Pakistan to Turkey. The latter has also dispatched six trains to Pakistan, but the train service was discontinued due to floods in the South Asian nation in 2009.
The ITI freight train will save time and cost compared to sea transportation between Pakistan and Turkey, which takes 35 days, and will lead to the development of trade between the two countries. Thus, with the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train, a new railway corridor will be provided to our exporters in the south of Asia – which has the highest population density globally – reaching Pakistan, neighbouring India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. In this way, Pakistan will be one step closer to achieving its goals of becoming a bridge and logistics base between Asia and Europe.
Pakistan Railways is expected to earn over 32 million dollars from the train in the first year. Moreover, it would play an important role in enhancing regional connectivity and promoting economic and commercial activities in the ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) region. The train would offer Pakistan an opportunity to further increase its exports and strengthen its connectivity with international markets, including in Europe. In the word of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, “The current government in Pakistan believes in regional connectivity and we feel that to play a role at the national stage, we need to be economically reliable. In order to do that, we need to not only have peace in our region but also increase the trade within our neighbourhood and this ITI project will become a friendship project.”
The ECO’s Director for Transport and Communication, Mr. Akbar Khodaei, who is also coordinating the Project, opines that the potential of ITI train, a single rail connection between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, is yet to be realized. He noted that this train would offer Pakistan the opportunity to start crucial export activity and establish connection with international markets. While Iran could become an important trans-shipment and transit location for international trade. This cargo service would be providing Turkey an opportunity to further develop its natural role as a bridge between Asia and Europe, he considered, adding that the ECO-ITI has the capacity to open a new transit route from China to Europe and ensure a sustainable income source for the en-route countries. He also mentioned that as per the comprehensive study conducted by the ECO Secretariat on this strategic corridor, multi-modal transportation could further maximize the load-capacity of the train on the corridor by mobilizing cargo from multiple sources that are yet to be connected to the railway network.
The writer is a member of staff.