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Turkey, Iran and Pakistan connect to China via grand rail project

The governments of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan will revive the transnational rail link linking Istanbul, Tehran and Islamabad in 2021. Transnational Railway (ITI) is expected to strengthen China's One Belt, One Road initiative by providing a rail link between those countries. This was reported today, December 29, the Japanese newspaper Nikkei Asia, citing its sources in Pakistan.
The roots of this ambitious project can be found in the ITI container shipping service, established in 2009 under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OIS), a 10-state intergovernmental alliance founded in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, Focus reported.

However, the container service of that railway line only reached test launches and was never fully completed. Nevertheless, Ankara, Tehran and Islamabad have always planned to supplement the first freight trains with passenger traffic, Nikkei Asia writes.

The huge route stretches 6540 km - more than one-sixth of the planet's circumference. Approximately 1950 km of the highway is located in Turkey, 2600 km - in Iran, another 1990 km - in Pakistan. The journey from Istanbul to Islamabad will take ten days - much faster than the 21 days by sea between Turkey and Pakistan.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Pakistani civil servant told Nikkei Asia that the ITI railway will connect to China's Xinjian-Uighur Autonomous District via Pakistan's ML-1 railway line. The $6.8bn ML-1 project is the largest component of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the leading Pakistani component of China's One Belt, One Road transport project. The railway is due to be launched in 2026.

The ITI railway will be the first regular rail line between China and Turkey, but there is also a more roundabout route, the Japanese newspaper noted. On December 19, a freight train arrived in China's Xian from Turkey via Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea (by ferry) and Kazakhstan. The Xian metropolis in Shaanxi province is the eastern end of the Silk Road, which connected ancient China with the Mediterranean Sea.

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