By: Kayhan Int’l Staff Writer
The recent inclusion of the Trans-Iranian Railway on the UNESCO list of World Heritage, though a belated move that was long awaited, still falls short of doing full justice to the Islamic Republic’s rapidly expanding railroad network which is all set to cover 25,000 km by the year 2025 with links to all the seven countries that share a common land border with Iran.
The UNESCO news release simply says the Trans-Iranian Railway, built between 1927 and 1938, connects the Caspian Sea in the northeast with the Persian Gulf in the southwest, a distance of 1,394 km that crosses two mountain ranges (Zagros and the Alborz) as well as rivers, highlands, forests and plains, and four different climatic areas.
It merely treats the Trans-Iranian Railway as a relic of the past, without any reference to its vital role at present in providing connections for the landlocked countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus to the international waters, although it acknowledges the skill and calibre of Iranian experts for the engineering works this railroad line required to overcome steep routes and other difficulties.
Part of the UNESCO statement reads: Its (the Trans-Iranian Railways’) construction involved extensive mountain cutting in some areas, while the rugged terrain in others dictated the construction of 174 large bridges, 186 small bridges and 224 tunnels, including 11 spiral tunnels.
Let us inform our readers and the world at large that the Islamic Revolution which freed Iran from the tentacles of the West, worked wonders in spreading the railway lines throughout the country, and is all set to connect the country to seas as far apart as the Mediterranean in the west, the Baltic in the north, and the Bay of Bengal in east.
Presently, almost 50 million tonnes of goods and 40 million passengers are transported annually by the rail transportation network, accounting for 15 percent and 20 percent of all transportation in Iran, respectively.
It means, Iran has come a long way since the first railway line was laid in 1887 during the Qajarid era – half a century before the Trans-Iranian Railway started operations from Bandar Torkaman on the Caspian Sea to what is now Bandar-e Imam Khomeini on the Persian Gulf.
In 1993, the opening of the Bandar Abbas railway line provided better access to the sea, and the 1996 opening of the Mashhad–Sarakhs extension, as part of the Silk Road Railway, linked the landlocked Central Asian Countries to the high seas.
In December 2014, the opening of a railway line to Turkmenistan marked the first direct rail link between Iran, Kazakhstan and China, and upon completion of the Marmaray rail project, direct rail transport between China and Europe through Iran will be possible.
On 10 December 2020, the first rail link between Iran and Afghanistan was set up connecting Khaf with Herat to the benefit of the two countries.
Meanwhile, talks are underway to connect the Iranian and Iraqi railways, which make possible the cherished project of connecting Syria and Lebanon to Iran. This will indeed be a great boost for both pilgrims and exchange of goods.
Iran’s western railway extension is already linked to Turkey at the Razī-Kapıkoy border, in addition to a northern connection to the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, and Russia through the Jolfa border.
Meanwhile, the Caspian Sea railroad that is connected to Amirabad is part of a North-South Corridor to Russia and Scandinavia, and via Pakistan to India (and possibly Bangladesh) which when it becomes operational will reduce time and cost of travel by 30-to-40 percent.