Islamabad to Istanbul rail link inaugurated

Sunday, August 30 2009


The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, shakes hands with the driver of the first leg of the ECO’s demonstration container train service from Islamabad to Istanbul. Photo © IRNA.

On August 14, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, inaugurated the Economic Cooperation Organization’s demonstration container train service from Islamabad to Istanbul via Tehran on Friday.

Sending off the train at Margallah Railway Station in Islamabad, he said that the new service will promote trade, commerce, tourism and personal contacts between the ECO countries. “The launch is an epic event, clearing the way for Pakistan’s integration into the regional railways network and opening the trade corridor between South and Central Asia on the one hand and with Europe on the other”.

The demonstration train carried 20 containers with 750 tonnes of freight. The length of the Islamabad-Istanbul rail link is 6,500 kilometres, 1,900km in Pakistan, 2,570km in Iran and 2,036km in Turkey. The train is expected to take 15 days to complete its journey. A regular train service is expected to begin next year.

The idea to establish a railway service between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey dates back to 1970s but the original proposal of linking the Indian and European continents was first made by railway engineers William Low and George Thomas who wrote to the British Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1871. The decision to launch the Islamabad to Istanbul service was made at the 10th ECO summit held in Tehran in March this year.

Officials say the current trade volume between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey is more than $1 billion annually and it is expected to increase considerably when all regulatory issues relating to the rail link have been hammered out.

Dyspozytor applauds Prime Minister Gilani’s sentiments regarding the rail link’s potential for promoting tourism and offers to write as many articles and press releases as may be required in return for a complimentary return railway ticket when a passenger service between the two cities is inaugurated.



One comment

  1. I had been aware that the Eurasia – Indian sub-continent rail link was essentially accomplished, except for last short section in south-east Iran; but had had no idea, until reading this, that this final connection has been made, and has been used for commercial traffic. Great news !

    All that’s needed now, is the construction of a few hundred kilometres from Lhasa (lately attained by rail from the direction of “China proper”) to join the Indian rail network (most direct route would seem to be into Sikkim and thence Bengal – getting over the top of the Himalayas and down again, would be quite an engineering challenge, but “where there’s a will..”) – and we’d really be cooking with gas !

    This “beeline” route would likely involve conversion to wider gauge, of the Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway; but omelettes and eggs, and all that…

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