ISLAMABAD: A freight train service was inaugurated here on Tuesday with an aim to boost trade between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.
Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati, along with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, inaugurated the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) freight train at Margalla railway station. Ambassadors of Turkey, Iran, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were also present on the occasion.
According to a Dawn report, the freight train service will play a vital role in improving the economies and lives of citizens of ECO member states by maximising economic efficiency and reducing the cost of doing business.
Railways Minister Swati highlighted the importance of ITI freight train and said this service would open doors for business and connectivity in the region. “The passenger train service will also start soon,” he said, adding: “We have opened our trade routes and it is a great opportunity for importers and exporters.”
Terming the ITI freight train an important milestone in Pakistan’s history, the minister said that business-to-business contact among the business community would further enhance through this train. He said the service would further strengthen relations between the three countries.
Razak Dawood said regional connectivity was one of very important pillars of Pakistan’s strategic trade policy framework and it was heartening to witness the resumption of operations of ITI freight train.
Foreign Minister Qureshi appreciated the resumption of ITI freight train and said the service would play an important role in regional connectivity and promoting economic activity in the region.
Turkish Ambassador Mustafa Yurdakul expressed the hope that the train service would not stop at Istanbul only but go all the way to Europe which would benefit all regional countries as the economies bounced back in the post-Covid era.
According to Pakistan Railways, the first train from Islamabad to Istanbul was inaugurated on August 14, 2009. Similarly, the first train from Istanbul reached the Islamabad dry port on August 13, 2010.
So far eight trains have been dispatched from Pakistan to Turkey, with the last leaving the Lahore dry port on November 5, 2011. Since the launch of the service in 2009, Turkey has sent six trains to Pakistan, with the last one reaching here on December 9, 2011.
ITI freight train will be operated regularly on Tuesday of every week. The freight train had nine wagons initially, said a senior railway official.
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 Zahidan-Tabraiz (Iran) will be 90 hours each. From Zahidan to Islamabad, the train would take 135.5 hours.