Economy, Domestic Economy

Iran, Azerbaijan Launch Strategic Rail Bridge

Iran, Azerbaijan Launch Strategic Rail BridgeIran, Azerbaijan Launch Strategic Rail Bridge

Iran and Azerbaijan have officially started the construction of a rail bridge over Astarachay River, along their border, as part of a project to link the two countries’ rail networks.

An inaugural ceremony, held on the Azeri soil, was attended by Iran’s visiting Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi and host Azerbaijan’s Minister of Economy and Industry Shahin Mustafayev, among other officials from both countries.

“The rail bridge, which is part of the International North-South Transportation Corridor, will play a significant role in promoting bilateral trade ties and cooperation in the transportation sector,” Vaezi was quoted as saying by IRNA on the sidelines of the ceremony.

The INSTC is a ship, rail and road transportation network for moving freight from India to the Finnish capital Helsinki, via Central Asia, Caucasus and Russia. The route primarily involves moving freight from India to Iran by ship, from Iran to Azerbaijan and Georgia by rail and road, and with the same means of transportation from Georgia to Russia and Europe.

The grand project requires the construction of a rail link between the city of Astara in northwestern Iran and an Azeri city with the same name, which led to the naming of the rail project as Astara-Astara.

Baku is to extend its railroads by 8.3 kilometers up to the border from where Iran needs to build 2 kilometers of railroads inside the country to the port of Astara in the northern Gilan Province.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the ceremony, Gilan Governor Mohammad Ali Najafi said the Azeri leg of the construction is currently underway and will finish within the next eight months.

The construction of the Astarachay rail bridge, which is 82 meters long and 10 meters wide, is also expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Referring to the 2-kilometer railroad to be constructed by the Iranian side, he said the government has finished building the foundations for 1.5 kilometers of the track.

Tehran and Baku had signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of the rail project during a meeting of their joint economic commission, co-chaired by Vaezi and Mustafayev, back in October.

The Astara-Astara route, along with other routes inside Iran, including Astara-Rasht and Rasht-Qazvin railroads, which will be jointly completed with the northern neighbor, are the missing links in INSTC. The route, when completed, will cut the current route from India to Helsinki by 2,000 kilometers, according to Najafi.

Hailing the two countries’ efforts to finish the joint rail project, the Azeri economy minister said the pathway, when completed, is expected to initially increase the 600,000 tons of commodities currently traded between Iran and Azerbaijan to 5 million and later to 10 million tons per year.

Vaezi and an accompanying delegation started a two-day visit to the neighboring country on Wednesday. On the second day of his stay, he met with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in the Azeri capital Baku. He also attended another meeting in Baku with Mustafayev, where the two sides signed four memorandums of understanding in auto and pharmaceutical sectors.

Iran-Azerbaijan trade in the first quarter of 2016 increased 53% compared with the similar period of a year before to stand at $41.4, according to the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan.