Businesses are bullish as reopening of regional freight line looms



A vital railway in the region of Turkey, the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) Freight Train, which is expected to be relaunched in the coming period, has created a positive atmosphere for people in the business world.

The train, which connects three countries and provinces in 14 end-to-end days, was initially launched in 2009, but was suspended in 2011 due to several delays in Pakistan.

While 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) of railroad are in Turkey, 2,603 ​​kilometers are in Iran and 1,990 kilometers pass through Pakistan,

In 2020, during the 10th edition of the meeting of transport and communications ministers of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (ECO), the participants decided to relaunch the railway in 2021.

Ahmet Cengiz Özdemir, chairman of the Turkey-Pakistan Business Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Council (DEIK), said the train line is of crucial importance for the development of Turkey’s regional integration countries.

“The railway, aimed at strengthening communication and interaction between the three countries, is not active due to uncertainties and conflicts in the region,” he said.

Özdemir stressed that the three countries can benefit from the railway which can be integrated with air and river routes.

The 14-day duration offers time and cost advantages over sea lanes, he said.

Referring to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to seamlessly connect China and Europe, he said the ITI railway was also important for China, given Chinese investments in Pakistan and in Iran.

Thanks to the free trade agreement between China and Pakistan, third countries can export to China without customs taxes, he said.

The expected opening of the railway in the coming days, which has big implications for this region, has created a positive environment for the business world, he said. “We are aware that this is a road that will give access to important markets. We hope that the problems will be resolved soon, even before the end of 2021”, he added.

Advantageous for neighbors

“We expect Pakistan’s foreign trade volume, which is currently around $ 65 billion (TL 577.34 billion), will increase rapidly in the coming years,” he said.

Thus, major logistics projects such as ITI, will enable Pakistan’s strong integration into the world economy, zdemir said.

He said that Amjad Rafi, his Pakistani counterpart, believes the project will not only reduce costs and time, but also diversify Pakistani products in Europe.

Özdemir stressed that the train is also important for passengers as it offers lower prices than airlines.

He pointed out that the line will also provide opportunities for neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China.

Earlier, Ahmet Åžahin, Turkey’s trade advisor in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, said rail services, which will speed up Turkey-Pakistan trade, are expected to start in late September.

Noting that the seaway and the highway are slower and more expensive, he said the freight train reduces the shipping time by seven days compared to the sea.

Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan said studies for the project were completed.



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