Following a 10-year hiatus, a freight train service between Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan was relaunched on Tuesday in a major boost for trade among the three countries and within the region.
The Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) cargo train was started in 2009 but suspended in 2011 due to several delays in Pakistan.
It can complete the journey between the three countries in about 14 days, much faster and less costly than the alternate sea route.
The train departed from Pakistan’s capital for Europe’s largest city with dozens of containers.
It will cover 1,990 kilometers (1,235 miles) inside Pakistan, before crossing through the Taftan border for a 2,603-kilometer (1,620 miles) stretch in Iran.
The train will travel some 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) in Turkey, passing through the capital Ankara before reaching its final stop in Istanbul.
Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran are founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a 10-member regional cooperation bloc that was established in 1964 as the Regional Cooperation for Development and renamed ECO in 1985.
The decision to resume the ITI cargo train service was taken at a ministerial meeting of ECO member states in 2020.
At Tuesday’s ceremony in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi hailed the “historic” development as a step that will open new avenues for trade and business in the region and beyond.
He said an ITI passenger train could also be launched in the future to further enhance regional connectivity and economic integration.
Mustafa Yurdakul, Turkey’s ambassador to Pakistan, said the resumption of the cargo train service is an important move part of the ECO framework and vision.
“This project has been on the agenda for a long time. It is a step that will improve bilateral cooperation and bolster economic and commercial exchanges between our countries,” he said, emphasizing that the rail link should be extended further to other parts of Europe.