IRAN: The 37 km extension of RAI’s Qazvin – Rasht line to the Caspian Sea port of Bandar-e Anzali was opened on June 20, completing a further section of the International North-South Transport Corridor through the central Asia region.

The line was formally inaugurated with a ceremony attended by Iran’s acting President Mohammad Mokhber and Minister of Transport & Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash. They were joined by Russian presidential aide Igor Levitin, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev, and the Governor of Astrakhan Oblast Igor Babushkin, along with ambassadors from several neighbouring countries.

Running through the northern Iranian province of Gilan, the Rasht-Caspian Railway Project completes an all-rail link across Iran from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas. As part of the INSTC, it will carry intermodal freight moving between northern Europe, the Volga basin and the Indian subcontinent via a mix of rail and shipping connections. It is expected to cut the transit time between St Petersburg and Mumbai to around 10 days, compared with 30 to 45 days using longer maritime routes.

The north-south corridor is being developed jointly by Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia, and also includes the rail link now under construction along the western side of the Caspian between Rasht and the Azeri border town of Astara.

Bazrpash described the opening of the port branch as an ‘historic development’, which would significantly boost the country’s capacity to handle transit freight by rail. Kheirullah Khademi, CEO of the Iranian construction company that built the line, told local media that it would be able to carry up to 7 million tonnes per year, along with 600 000 passengers.