Iran's connectivity plans suddenly rumble to life
The second freight train running from Pakistan to Turkey through Iran has departed with the coordination of customs, railways and forwarders in the three countries following the successful launch of the service last month, Fars news agency says.
The train of 24 wagons carrying talcum powder, a mineral-based product commonly used in baby powder, cosmetics, personal hygiene and industrial products, left Pakistan's Azakhel dry port on Thursday for Istanbul in Turkey.
After arriving at Zahedan station in Iran through the Mirjaveh order, the cargo is transshipped to roofed wagons for carriage to Razi border from where it will cross into Turkey.
In order to increase international exchanges, Iran's new administration says its priority is to complete transit corridors and establish rail links with neighboring and other countries in order to strengthen passenger and rail freight transport.
Iran, Pakistan and Turkey are the founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), currently a 10-member political and economic intergovernmental organization established in 1985.
The first freight train carrying rice, dates and pink salt rumbled out of the Margala station in Islamabad for Istanbul last month after a 10-year hiatus, hauling more than a dozen containers.
The 6,540 km journey from the Pakistani capital to Europe's largest city takes 10 days, less than half the time needed for the equivalent voyage of 21 days by sea.
It covers 1,990 km inside Pakistan, passing through Quetta into Taftan at the Iranian border and on to Tehran and Tabriz over a 2,603 km stretch before ending up in Istanbul through Ankara.
The three countries launched the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) container train service in 2009, but it only got as far as test runs and was never fully operational.
Even so, they always planned to follow up the initial freight trains with passenger services and operationalize the ITI transnational line with the aim of enhancing connectivity with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
"The start of the container train from Pakistan to Iran and Turkey was a long-standing dream of the countries of the region, which came true again," Pakistan's Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati told the opening of the project.
He said strengthening and expanding ECO rail cooperation can contribute to regional stability and peace.