Iran, Tehran, Oct. 30 / Trend special corr. T. Jafarov /
Iran intends to connect the railway lines with Azerbaijan within the opening of North-South by late 2010 (Iranian year starts on March 21), Iranian Transport Minister Hamid Behbahani told Azerbaijani media today.
"We intend to connect rail lines of the two countries [Iran and Azerbaijan] by late 2010," Behbahani said.
"North-South" will allow Azerbaijan to reach the Persian Gulf. Iran will have the way to the European countries and Russia. Azerbaijan will turn into a transit center after the process of transporting goods from Iran to these countries is launched, he said.
Behbahani noted that this project lacks only one section of road.
"We have a railway line from Bandar Abbas to Tehran and Qazvin. The construction work from Qazvin to Resht is underway. Over 40 percent of the work has been done. We try to accelerate this process. A ten-kilometer-path has already been laid from the Iranian town of Astara to Resht. The work is underway there, " minister said.
Behbahani said that a priority for the Iranian government is to develop railway in the country. Rail lines must be laid in accordance with a prospective program of Iran in all the central provinces in 2025.
"Iran intends to lay 16,000 kilometers of railway lines in the next 15 years," Behbahani said.
He said that there were only 4,000 kilometers of railway lines in Iran 30 years ago. About 5,000 more kilometers of railway lines were laid since the period of the Islamic Revolution (1979) and up to now.
"We intend to increase the number of railway lines by 1,5 times in the next 15 years. We have enough qualified personnel for this purpose, ," the minister said.
He said that the necessary funds will be allocated for these projects.
The project of transport corridor "North-South" envisages creation of a single railway transportation from Europe through Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran to India and South-East Asia. More than $400 million will be required to implement the project. Most of the work will be done in Iran, which has no rail link to the border with Azerbaijan. Certain work worth $35-40 million should be conducted in Azerbaijan.
The scope of work in the territory of Azerbaijan envisages the construction of a 8.5 kilometer-railway to the station Astara, the station with systems of changing of wheel pairs, border and customs infrastructure. It is necessary to build a border railway bridge. However, this project will be implemented on a parity basis with Iran.
Forecast for the transport of goods via this corridor is made in the first phase worth $5 million tons a year, with a further increase to 10-15 million tons a year.