Mar 1, 2021, 11:31 AM
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Regional railway: Pakistan set to host meeting on railway

Islamabad, March 1, IRNA -- Pakistani official sources have confirmed that the country is set to host Tehran-Islamabad-Istanbul freight train after its re-launching in coming days.  

The tenth high-level meeting of the working group of Tehran-Islamabad-Istanbul railway project also called 'Eco train' was held virtually in early December last year with the presence of relevant officials of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

The spokesman of Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan while confirming the meeting had announced that the train will be revived in the next year.

Although Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri had told media that the ECO container train would be re-launched in January 2021 local media reported that there is a strong possibility that the ECO freight train between Ira, Pakistan and Turkey would move on March 4.

“We have been informed by the quarters concerned that the container train would start its journey from Istanbul (Turkey) for Islamabad (Pakistan) via Zahedan on March 4. Though the schedule will be reconfirmed in a day or two, so far March 4 is the final date of departure of the train from Istanbul,” said a senior official of the Pakistan Railways while speaking to local media.

**Pakistan coordinates with relevant ministries in Iran and Turkey

The official said Pakistan ministries of foreign affairs and railways are coordinating with the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Secretariat that is also in contact with the respective departments/ministries of Turkey and Iran.

Since the train will complete the one-side trip in 12 days, it is expected to reach the Islamabad dryport on March 16. “Pakistan Railways also plans to resume this train operation from 19th, as it is currently booking cargo for Iran and Turkey,” the official added.

Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati told Dawn newspaper that he would receive the train on March 16.

Talking to Dawn, Chief Marketing Manager of Pakistan Railways Kashif Yousfani said a follow-up meeting was scheduled for Monday (today).

“March 4 is a tentative schedule for the departure of train from Istanbul. But it has been reported to us that the cargo comprising 24 containers have so far been booked from Turkey to Iran and Pakistan,” he added.

Referring to the recent agreement between Iran, Pakistan and Turkey as founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to resume the ECO container train this year, news sources say the project would facilitate trade and regional connections between the three countries.

According to the German website Deutsche Welle, the ECO cargo train will increase communication between Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, a move that was launched in 2009 with the aim of strengthening regional communications and trade.

As per present arrangement to start the train and the schedule agreed jointly by Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, the running time between Drence-Kapikoy (Istanbul) and Zahedan-Tabraiz (Iran) will be 90 hours each. From Zahedan to Islamabad, the train would take 135.5 hours.

"Although the ECO train is not part of the China Belt and Road Initiative but it is expected to be included in the project," a report quoting experts from the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council and the Warsaw Academy of War Studies as saying.

According to these experts, if the 25-year Iran-China strategic plan is implemented, Beijing will undoubtedly need to use the capacity of the ECO container train to strengthen communications in the region, and at the same time, if the Chinese were successful to curb US influence in Asia, more countries of  the region would participate in the project.

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