After a 10-year halt, cargo train service between Turkiye, Iran, and Pakistan has been relaunched in a major boost for trade among the three countries and within the region.
The first Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) train has arrived in Turkiye carrying goods from Pakistan, via Iran, after the resumption of its operations.
In a ceremony held at the Turkish capital to mark the train's arrival on Wednesday, Turkiye's Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said the new railway will offer new options to the industrialists and businesspeople on the Pakistan-Iran-Turkiye route.
"It will save time and cost compared to sea transportation between Pakistan and Turkiye, 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 —having the highest population density globally — reaching Pakistan, neighbouring 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," Karaismailoglu added.
Member of Pakistan National Assembly Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, and Iranian Ambassador to Turkiye Mohammad Farazmand attended the ceremony.
Opportunity to increase exports
Qureshi highlighted that the ITI train would play an important role in enhancing regional connectivity and promotion of economic and commercial activities in the ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) region.
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.
"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, he said, adding, "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."
"We get access to the European markets and Turkiye 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 News Agency in an interview.
Operations resume after 10 years
Ambassador Farazmand in his speech said the ITI railway project was first launched in 2009 under the economic cooperation organisation but remained suspended due to technical issues and restarted after 10 years.
He emphasised that the three countries also plan to launch a passenger train to the same route in the near future.
The ITI cargo train, with a capacity of 22 tons, started its journey from Islamabad on December 21, 2021, and arrived in Ankara in around 13 days.
Departing from the Margalla station in Islamabad, the train took a route of 5,981 km (3,666 miles) in 12 days and 21 hours.
The first train from Islamabad to Istanbul was inaugurated on August 14, 2009, but the train service was discontinued due to floods in Pakistan in 2009.