ITI train to restart in 2021: A Railway track that will link Asia with Europe

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Under the umbrella of ECO, Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad railway will start its operations this year. The train will cover 6543 kilometer in three countries i.e. Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.  ITI railway track will connect three countries and two continents. It was one of the main objectives of Economic Cooperation Organization(ECO) to start this project. The preliminary attempt of the ITI train was launched in 2009 under the ECO – a 10 members Asian Trade block. The rail route is considered as a global passageway by the United Nations between the three nations, has so far just been utilized for test ventures.

Mr. Habib ur Rehman Gillani Secretary/Chairman Railways deems ITI project will strengthen diplomatic relations and people to people contact with Iran and Turkey and this venture will convert the friendship into economic benefits. Increase in business and decrease cost of business will be the major advantage of this project, Mr. Gillani was talking speaking to Eat News.

Mr. Gillani said, “Pakistan railway is working on this task with great zeal and zest, we have sufficient technical staff to address the issues related to ITI. We are capable enough to handle the issues related to trains and tracks. Our ultimate goal is to link the people of three brother Muslim countries through ITI, which will increase the cultural and tourism ties among boarded states. We are ready for ITI still we need more coordinated efforts from other two countries. Once this cargo train will be a successful story then we will switch over to passenger trains service immediately.”

Habib ur Rehman says “Huge business boost is expected through this project as Turkey is gateway to Europe, and indeed Europe is the prime marketplace for local goods and services.  There is a potential increase in native export to Europe as train is considered is a cheaper and best available land route.”

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Taouseef Zaman member Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry(ICCI) while talking to Eat News said that they are observing changes in region in terms of trade, economy and regional supremacy.Previously regional countries under the banner of RCD(Regional Cooperation for Development) and SAARC(South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) has made some famous trade arrangements but these were not successful. 

Mr. Zaman said, “If this project (ITI) works, we can purchase different items and commodities from Iran on cheaper rates as compare to China. These day-to-day utility and food items will reach Pakistan even earlier from Iran rather than China. It will increase the soft image of Pakistan internationally, and global community will come to know how culturally and traditionally rich we are. Ceramic, construction material, minerals and mining sector in Baluchistan (the province which is bordered with Iran) will bump up and indeed peace leads to prosperity”.

Mr. Zaman shared, “franckly speaking, I love to be the first person to catch the first train from Islamabad to Tehran and then to Istanbul. No doubt, it would be a life time experience to travel across the continents through railway track. Religious, literary, cultural, traditional acceptance will increase through this project.” 

While talking to Eat News Qurat ul Ain Fatima Director Public Relations Pakistan Railway said, “it is a massive development for transport sector as ITI is recommencing which will link the three brother Islamic countries. In initial phase it will be a cargo service which will boost the trade and economic activities in the region”. She told, “UN accepted this track as international trade route, which will augment the volume of local economy and prosperity that will lead to bilateral relations in the said countries”. “From the platform of the ECO Pakistan, Iran and Turkey are working and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the technical department of their respective railway.  Pakistan is also planning to bridge this route with China. In future when CPEC railway track will be laid down, this will be connected with ITI project”, she added.

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While talking on the technical grounds, Ms Fatima told, Pakistan railway tracks are “broad gauge” while Iran and Turkey possesses “standered gauge”. For this reason, transshipment technique will be used (transshipment methodology refers to change railway track from one gauge to another gauge). It never means same bogies which will start their journey from Islamabad will continue their travel all along to Istanbul. In each country, bogies will change.

She informed Eat News that “our ultimate goal is ITI passenger train and cargo train will work as groundbreaking event to said target. This train will help the people to understand the cultures of the region and will uplift their understanding about the multicultural acceptance.” “It’s too early to say what would be the schedule, tariff and frequency of the train, however, we (all three countries) are working on roadmap”, she said.

Reestablishing of ITI train is one of the important pillars Pakistan Government Vision 2025.  Under Vision 2025, existing railway tracks will be restored and repaired while Pakistan Railways is instructed to create the new routs which will enhance the regional connectivity.

Back in 2009 and 2010 test run of this train project has already been executed. This railway track is one of the priorities of Government of Pakistan. Trader’s community is also happy on the intiation ITI train service as they believe this project will give them a ‘breathing space’ after corona pandemic which badly affected the local economy, imports and exports.

In 16 days, by covering more than 6,500 kilometer, this train is connecting Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul. There is a break-of-gauge between Iran Railways, Standard gauge and Pakistan Railways, Broad gauge at Zahedan. A container terminal is proposed in Zahedan for transshipment of containers from Standard gauge to Broad gauge.

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Mohammad Farhan Niazi is a correspondent for Eat News in Pakistan and is an experienced senior producer with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in feature and news writing, non-linear editing, radio, multimedia journalism, Online journalism, film production, and sound. Strong media and communication professional graduated from University of Peshawar.

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Eat News is a Taiwanese digital media, analyzes current events and issues through column articles, videos, visual aid, and exclusive interviews.

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