A high-ranking official with the Iranian railways organization has briefed Trend on the latest developments concerning Azerbaijan’s plans to invest in the development of his country’s railway system in a bid to help the full activation of the International North-South Transportation Corridor.
Nourollah Beiranvand, the deputy for planning and investment at the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, says the Azerbaijani officials have recently agreed to provide 60 million euros for developing railway facilities in Astara City (Iran).
According to the official, about a half of it is projected to finance the construction of a 1.4 kilometer-long railway in Astara as well as the railway station building.
The remaining half will go for the construction of four terminals of fuelling, general cargo, grain and containers, he said.
The official underscored that the annual capacity of the corridor for transferring goods is expected to hike by two million tons after finalizing the project for creating railway facilities in Astara city.
Elaborating on the details of the agreement, Nourollah Beiranvand added that the Azerbaijani side has also undertaken covering investment risks of the project.
Further speaking about the plans to connect the railways of Iran and Azerbaijan as part of the International North-South Transportation Corridor, Nourollah Beiranvand described the Rasht-Astara railway segment (inside Iran) as the "missing link" of the corridor.
To complete the railway links of the transportation corridor, Iran had earlier agreed to construct inland railway segments in northern parts of the country in order to extend its railway network to the border area with the neighboring Azerbaijan through the two cities of Astara on both sides.
The initial plan included Qazvin-Rasht and Rasht-Astara railway segments. In the meantime, Azerbaijan has launched a construction project to extend its railway into Iran’s territory which is going through the final tests and will be implemented soon.
According to Nourollah Beiranvand, the construction of the Qazvin-Rasht segment is almost over and it is expected to come on stream within the next six months.
However, the sides still need to finalize the ongoing talks on the financing of the project for the construction of the 164 kilometer-long railway segment linking the two Iranian cities of Rasht and Astara.
Speaking about difficulties concerning the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway segment, the official said that the lands where the railway segment is planned to be laid are valuable in terms of price and the Iranian officials need to purchase those lands from the owners.
According to the latest agreements between Iranian and Azerbaijani officials, the Islamic Republic has been obliged to purchase those lands and Azerbaijan will finance the construction of the $500-million railway segment.
Beiranvand forecasted that the document on financing Rasht-Astara segment is expected to be inked over the next one month and the construction of the segment by March 2018.
Nourollah Beiranvand believes that the main goal of strategic cooperation between the railways of Iran and Azerbaijan is activating the International North-South Transportation Corridor which will eventually link Russia and Azerbaijan to High-Seas through the Islamic Republic.
Underscoring the commercial and geopolitical importance of the corridor, he added that the corridor is expected to benefit Iran in terms of increasing the volume of cargo transferred through the county and in the meantime the corridor will provide a much shorter route for transporting Indian goods.
Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia corridor promises to cut down over 40 percent of logistics cost and halve travel time.