Calls for stronger ties with ECO countries lead to the expansion of the region’s railroad. The Islamic republic of Pakistan, Islamic republic of Iran and Republic of Turkey aim to upgrade their railways in an effort to increase trade efficiency encouraging the use of more trains to take cargo to the countries.
Project ambitions are to cut travel time between Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul from the current 11 days to 4 days.
In a meeting in Ankara, managing directors of the railroad agreed on expanding the railway network and promote private sector investment by reducing custom tariffs.
Analysts expect the 6,566 kilometres rail road connecting West Asia to South East Asia to open a new market of goods strengthening regional economic ties with the potential to enhance cultural relations between the three nations. Plans for the creation of a regional railroad were proposed in Islamabad at the 18th Regional Planning Council of ECO on March 2008. Islamabad is also looking to start a passenger service operation which is also in development for use on the route.
A railway network linking Pakistan, Iran and Turkey will establish greater unity within the region. The ability of a fast flowing trade system will open up new economic possibilities since the demise of the Silk Road. Following the 2007 global financial crisis with the decline of global superpowers, ECO countries have managed to develop their markets, determined to be consumers of more products. Higher demands of trade will enhance communication between nations developing relations that can excel and form greater common interests.
The major trading route can prove to be a challenge to construct in the mountain and desert terrains of the region. Engineers advise that conditions of the existing railway tracks must be improved; also pointing out the requirement for frequent maintenance for the tracks regular use.
Ahmad Sadeqi, managing director of Construction & Development of Transportation Infrastructure said experts from Ukrainian companies are expected to visit the projects and hold meetings with the ministry’s officials. Sadeqi also stated that an agreement was signed with Ukrainian companies to develop transportation infrastructures of the railway.
Completion of tracks will not transpire soon but whenever the railroad takes shape, economic and geopolitical transitions will bring ECO member states closer together. Economists highlight the importance of free trade integrating ECO countries and transforming the socio-economic landscapes of the region.
On another joint venture rail routes will also be connected to Central Asian countries from Tehran. An ECO passenger train already runs between Istanbul and Tehran which aims to link Ashgabat to the track. Iran is in the process of constructing its railroad to Turkmenistan which will run through to Kazakhstan. The newly constructed route will be complete by the end of 2012.
Amir Tahouri is a freelance broadcast journalist working for CNC World, China’s international news channel and Channel 4 in London. He has produced a number of news features on Europe, Central Asia and Middle East on the subjects of EU financial crisis, UN operations in Syria, Shanghai pact and ECO. He writes for various political journals on geopolitics of Central Asia and the Middle East.
Amir Tahouri can be reached at email@example.com