Domestic Economy

National Railway Going Places

National Railway Going PlacesNational Railway Going Places

Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Abbas-Ahmad Akhundi on Saturday announced plans to implement the Automated Train Control (ATC) system for the entire rail network during the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21). The system, which was first adopted a month ago for the Tehran-Mashhad rail line as a pilot project, is expected to improve reliability and increase the capacity of the railway system.

According to the minister, implementing the ATC technology will nearly double the capacity of railways by automatically managing the trains' timing. The estimated cost of the project is $100 million and it is expected to finish within 10-14 months, ISNA reported.

Plans to develop the national railway's capacity have been on the government's agenda since President Hassan Rouhani, assumed office in 2013. Rouhani has said the railway system development as a legacy his government plans to leave behind.

> Transport Development Plan

The Rail Transport Development Plan, approved by the economy council last year, aims to increase the capacity of railway system for freight and passenger transport, to reduce pollution and increase fuel efficiency. The plan's implementation requires 10 years and more than $7.53 billion in investment, Mehr news agency reported.

The plan aims to increase the capacity of railroads for freight and passenger transport from 21.7 billion ton-kilometer (tkm) and 17.4 billion passenger-kilometer (pkm) in 2013 to 75.8 billion tkm and 34.2 billion pkm in 2023 respectively. It also includes establishing 26 new stations and double-tracking as well as expanding and renovating long stretches of the country's railroads.

> Joining Railway to Neighbors

In addition to improving the rail network, the government also plans to join the national railways to neighboring countries, including Iraq and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The long-awaited transnational railway linking Central Asia with the Persian Gulf was officially inaugurated on December 3, 2014 to link Iran's network to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The railway will play an important role in connecting the Caspian Sea and littoral states from the border with Kazakhstan to Bereket in western Turkmenistan.

> Qazvin-Rasht-Astara Railway

The Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway will link Iran’s railway system to Europe and Russia via Azerbaijan. The project has so far achieved 87% physical progress and is expected to be completed within the next 18 months, Mehr news agency reported on Saturday.

The railway route is particularly crucial as it will connect Iran's southern ports to Europe's rail network, which will facilitate transport of both passenger and cargo. The 165 kilometer long single-track railroad is expected to transport 3.8 million passengers and 10 million tons of cargo per year.

> Shalamcheh-Basra Railroad

Iran is also planning to connect the national rail network to Iraq's railway through two routes. The first passes through Shalamcheh border and requires about 40 kilometers of railroad to be constructed between Shalamcheh in Iran and Basra in Iraq. The second will pass through Khosravi border.

Akhundi travelled to Iraq last week to follow up on the issues pertaining to railway expansions.

According to the minister, the executive operations for Shalamcheh-Basra railroad will be completed within the next 20 months, with Iran pledging to build a 700 meter long drawbridge over the Arvand River and Iraq completing the 32 kilometers of railroad track in its territory, IRNA reported.

Iran and Iraq agreed on linking their rail networks to facilitate the movement of goods and passengers – the majority of them Iranian pilgrims visiting Iraq’s religious sites – when Akhundi and his [then] Iraqi counterpart, Bayan Baqir Jabr al-Zubeidi met in Tehran back in December.

> Iran-Tajikistan Railroad Transit

On a separate note, deputy director of operations at the Islamic Republic of Iran Railway, Hossein Ashouri said railway freight transport between Iran and Tajikistan is expected to reach 100,000 tons in the current Iranian year, Mehr news agency reported on Monday.

Railway officials from both countries have held several meetings over the past months and signed the draft copy of an agreement which aims at boosting the volume of cargo transit between the two countries, as well as finalizing transit tariffs.