ECO Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Container Train


Pakistan-Iran-Turkey Transit


The start of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train is an important initiative by Pakistan, Iran and Turkey to foster trade through railway link among them. The initiative has been launched with the support of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).


On the sidelines of the 16th EC meeting of the ECO CCI (Chambers of Commerce and Industry), a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the area of transportation and strengthening and promotion of Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad Cargo train (known as Gul Train or ECO Train) was signed. The first demonstration container train commenced its journey from Islamabad via Tehran to Istanbul on 14 August 2009, which successfully culminated in Istanbul on 28 August 2009.

The Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul journey is 6566 km with 1900 km in Pakistan, 2570 km in Iran, and 2036 km in Turkey. The freight train would carry textile products, cotton, medical hand tools, furniture, sporting goods, fruits and edible products westbound, with machinery and parts, chemical products, paper and paper products, cars spares and agricultural tools going eastbound. At the moment of the launch, trade between the three countries amounted to US$ 1 billion and the officials of the railways estimate a significant growth in trade with the solution of all problems related to regulations and facility of integrated traffic.

According to sources, the journey “will take 15 days from Pakistan’s federal capital to the Turkish capital, compared to 40-45 days from Karachi to a Turkish port”.

The freight train also aims at connecting all the members of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to each other: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Specialists are also considering to extend the line to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. It is also planned to improve travel times, the main weak points of the route being identified in Turkey where the transshipment with the ferry across Van Lake takes 13 hours. They also want to improve the transposition of wagons at the border point of Zahedan (Iran), where there is an Indian gauge of 1676 mm. Another step is the rehabilitation of Taftan-Quetta section where traffic takes between 18 and up to 36 hours.

The ECO Container Train on Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Route will not only open a new era of socio-economic development and prosperity in the region but also bring the people closer to each other. 

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