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1st train in decade on Pakistan-Iran-Turkey route reaches Ankara

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Resuming operations after 10 years, the first Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) train carrying goods from Pakistan to Turkey via Iran rolled into the capital Ankara on Wednesday, Anadolu News Agency reported.

The ITI cargo train, hauling more than a dozen containers, started its journey from Islamabad on Dec. 21, 2021, and arrived in Ankara in around 13 days. The train has the capacity to carry 80,000 tons of goods.

Departing from the Margalla station in Islamabad, the train embarked on its 6543-kilometer route, arriving in 12 days and 21 hours. It traversed 1,990 km across Pakistan, passing through Quetta into Taftan at the Iranian border and on to Tehran and Tabriz over a 2,603-km stretch before completing its (Turkish 1950-km route) in Istanbul via Ankara. It offers the shortest and most affordable route for transportation of goods between Asia and Europe.

Pakistani parliamentarian Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi and Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Mohammad Farazmand attended a ceremony held to mark the arrival of the train in Ankara.

Turkey's Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil KaraismailoÄŸlu, in his speech said the new railway will offer another option to industrialists and businesspeople on the Pakistan-Iran-Turkey route.

"It 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," he said.

"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, neighboring India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. In this way, our country will be one step closer to its goals of becoming a bridge and logistics base between Asia and Europe," KaraismailoÄŸlu added.

Speaking at the ceremony, Pakistani parliamentarian Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi highlighted that the ITI train would play an important role in enhancing regional connectivity and promoting economic and commercial activities in the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) region. Iran, Pakistan and Turkey established the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) organization in 1964, renaming it the ECO in 1985.

Qureshi added that the train would offer Pakistan an opportunity to further increase its exports and strengthen its connectivity with international markets, including in Europe.

"We get access to the European markets and Turkey gets access to the central Asian states so it is a mutually beneficial arrangement and I hope it will be sustainable and we can grow from it further," Qureshi told Anadolu Agency (AA) in an interview.

ITI project was launched in 2009

Ambassador Farazmand in his speech explained that the ITI railway project was first launched in 2009 under the ECO but remained suspended due to technical issues, restarting a decade later.

He emphasized that the three countries also plan to launch a passenger train along the same route in the near future.

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 country has also dispatched six trains to Pakistan, but the train service was discontinued due to floods in the South Asian nation in 2009.

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. However, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey had 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.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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