A ceremony was held at the Turkish capital on Wednesday to mark the arrival of the first Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) train carrying goods from Pakistan to Turkiye, via Iran after the resumption of its operations.
The ITI cargo train started its journey from Islamabad on Dec. 21, 2021, and arrived in Ankara in around 13 days. Turkey's Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu, Member of Pakistan National Assembly Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, and Iranian Ambassador to Turkiye Mohammad Farazmand attended the ceremony.
Departing from the Margalla station in Islamabad, the train took a route of 5,981 kilometers (3,666 miles) in 12 days and 21 hours. The cargo train aims to boost trade between Pakistan, Iran, and Turkiye. It comprises eight loaded wagons, 20 feet each with a capacity of 22 tons.
Karaismailoglu in his speech said the new railway will offer new options to the industrialists and businesspeople on the Pakistan-Iran-Turkiye route.
"It will save time and cost compared to sea transportation between Pakistan and Turkiye, which takes 35 days, and will lead to the development of trade between the two countries," he said.
"Thus, with the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train, a new railway corridor will be provided to our exporters in the south of Asia -- having the highest population density globally -- reaching Pakistan, neighboring India, China, Afghanistan, and Iran. In this way, our country will be one step closer to its goals of becoming a bridge and logistics base between Asia and Europe," Karaismailoglu added.
Speaking at the ceremony, Qureshi highlighted that the ITI train would play an important role in enhancing regional connectivity and promotion of economic and commercial activities in the ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization) region. Iran, Pakistan, and Turkiye established the Regional Cooperation for Development organization in 1964 and renamed it ECO in 1985.
Qureshi added that the train would offer Pakistan an opportunity to further increase its exports and strengthen its connectivity with international markets, including in Europe.
"The current government in Pakistan believes in regional connectivity and we feel that to play a role at the national stage we need to be economically reliable. In order to do that, we need to not only have peace in our region but also increase the trade within our neighborhood and this ITI project will become a friendship project.
"We get access to the European markets and Turkey gets access to the central Asian states so it is a mutually beneficial arrangement and I hope it will be sustainable and we can grow from it further," Qureshi told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
Ambassador Farazmand in his speech said the ITI railway project was first launched in 2009 under the economic cooperation organization but remained suspended due to technical issues and restarted after 10 years.
He emphasized that the three countries also plan to launch a passenger train to the same route in the near future.
The first train from Islamabad to Istanbul was inaugurated on Aug. 14, 2009. Since then, eight trains have been dispatched from Pakistan to Turkiye. Turkiye has also dispatched six trains to Pakistan, but the train service was discontinued due to floods in Pakistan in 2009.