Construction of Rasht-Astara railway and regional interests
Ex-Iranian envoy to Azerbaijan
Recently, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with Vladimir Putin, confirmed the words of the Russian president about the necessity of starting the Rasht-Astara railway, saying, “This work will complete the International North-South Transportation Corridor and benefit both countries.”
Transporting goods by rail has many advantages in terms of security, speed, and price compared to transport by road, and rail costs are much lower than sea and road costs.
Due to its special geopolitical situation, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the link connecting Asia to Europe and Africa, and the construction of railway lines doubles the importance of Iran’s transit position in the region.
Completing the INSTC with the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway will not only improve Iran’s transit position, but also connect the countries of the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, and the Caucasus, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to the Black Sea and Europe.
Annually, at least two million tons of cargo can be transported through the route, and this brings about a major change in international and regional transportation and the promotion of trade exchanges.
Also, with the launch of the rail project, the transportation of goods will be reduced by 25 days compared to the sea route, and the situation will bring a 30% reduction in overall costs.
The amount of traffic expected in the first year of operating the Rasht-Astara axis is about three million tons of cargo and 200,000 passengers, which can increase to four million tons of cargo and 500,000 passengers in the following years.
Currently, millions of tons of goods are transited from India and European countries to the Caucasus region within sixty days, which will be reduced to ten to fourteen days with the completion of the INSTC.
The construction of the Rasht-Astara railway has helped the International South-West Corridor project and the economic development of Chabahar port and facilitation of transportation from Iran to the Indian Ocean.
Considering the war in Ukraine and the insecurity in parts of the Black Sea, the use of Iran’s route will be important for European countries as well.
The first stage of the route, under the name of Astara-Astara railway, was opened in April 2017, with the virtual presence of the presidents of Iran and Azerbaijan. At that stage, the Astara railway line of Azerbaijan was connected to Astara of Iran, with investment by the Republic of Azerbaijan. On March 15, 2017, the final stage of the Qazvin-Rasht railway line was launched, and the event created a point of hope for the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway line.
For the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway line with a length of 165 km, the cost is estimated to be $1 billion, and the Republic of Azerbaijan has announced its readiness to invest $500 million. Considering Putin’s interest in launching the route, we can also count on Russia’s financial participation.
If the second stage of the Rasht-Astara railway line, on the Rasht-Anzali route, with a distance of 35km is launched within the next year, the strengthening of combined transportation (sea-road-rail) will not only lead to a large income generation in the country, but also economic progress in Gilan Province.
The Rasht-Astara railway is not only the axis of friendship between Iran and Azerbaijan, but it will strengthen Iran’s neighborhood policy and develop relations with neighboring countries, especially Russia.
President Raeisi’s order to the first vice president to speed up the implementation of the Rasht-Astara railway, which was issued after his meeting with Putin, is considered important in this regard.
The last point is that the people of Iran and the region expect the implementation of the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway to begin and end in the 13th administration and to take a big step towards strengthening the economy and neutralizing the cruel U.S. sanctions against Iran.