Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 29
By Farhad Daneshvar – Trend:
Although Iran and Azerbaijan have made considerable efforts aimed at connecting the two countries through railways, it appears that the mission is unlikely to be completed by 2020.
Tehran and Baku have earlier agreed to connect their railways as part of the North-South Transportation Corridor.
To fulfill the ambitious plan, Iran agreed to construct inland railway segments in northern parts of the country in order to extend its railway network to the Islamic Republic’s border with the neighboring Azerbaijan.
The plan included Qazvin-Rasht (162 kilometers) and Rasht-Astara (175 kilometers) railways. In the meantime, Azerbaijan has launched a project to extend its railway into Iran’s territory through the border city of Astara, which is in its final stages and is projected to come on stream within the next three months.
According to the latest reports, the Islamic Republic has launched construction work to build the Qazvin-Rasht segment, which is expected to be completed over the next year.
But what about the longest section, Rasht-Astara?
In an interview with Trend, Nourollah Beiranvandi, an advisor to the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways Company in finance and foreign investment, has said that following an earlier agreement on Azerbaijan’s decision to finance the 175-kilometer segment, the sides have held talks over the procedure of financing the project.
Earlier, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi told Trend that Azerbaijan agreed to open a $500 million credit line to finance the Rasht-Astara railway project. He said the Rasht-Astara railway project is expected to need $0.9-$1 billion of investment, of which $500 million will be financed through an Azerbaijani loan.
During the interview Beiranvandi said Tehran and Baku have prepared a draft document on the procedure of financing the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway segment.
He forecast that the talks on procedures of financing the project would be finalized within the next six months.
The official added that an international tender will be announced to select contractors for implementing the project once the sides reach a conclusion on the funding issue.
This is while Deputy Head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railway Company for Operation Affairs Hossein Ashouri has also told Trend that the construction of the Rasht-Astara segment would take about five years.
The International North-South Transport Corridor is meant to connect Northern Europe with Southeast Asia. It will serve as a link connecting the railways of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia.
The corridor is planned to transport 6 million tons of cargo per year at the initial stage and 15-20 million tons of cargo in the future.