A critical railway in Turkey's region, the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad (ITI) freight train, expected to relaunch in 2021, has created a positive atmosphere for those in the business world.
The train, which connects three countries and provinces in 14 days from end to end, was initially launched in 2019 but was suspended in 2011 due to several delays in Pakistan.
While 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) the railway is in Turkey, 2,603 kilometers (1,620 miles) in Iran and 1,990 kilometers (1,230 miles) in Pakistan,
In 2020, at the 10th edition of the Economic Cooperation Organization's (ECO) Transport and Communications Ministers Meeting, participants decided to relaunch the railway in 2021.
Ahmet Cengiz Ozdemir, chairman of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey-Pakistan Business Council, said the train has critical importance in the development of countries in Turkey's regional integration.
"The railway, aiming to strengthen communication and interaction between three countries, is not active due to uncertainties and conflicts in the region," he said.
Ozdemir underlined that the three countries can benefit from the railway which can be integrated with air and seaways
The duration of 14 days provides advantages in terms of time and cost compared to seaways, he said.
Touching on China's Road and Belt Project to connect China and Europe uninterruptedly, he said the ITI railway is also important for China, considering Chinese investments in Pakistan and Iran.
Thanks to the free trade agreement between China and Pakistan, third countries can make exports to China without custom taxes, he said.
The expectation of the 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 it is a route that will provide access to important markets. We hope that the problems will be resolved soon, even before the end of 2021.
- Advantageous for neighbors
"We expect that Pakistan's foreign trade volume, which is around $65 billion currently, will be increased rapidly in the coming years," he stressed.
Thus, important logistic projects such as ITI’s strong integration of Pakistan into the global economy, said Ozdemir.
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.
Ozdemir underlined that the train is also important for passengers because it provides lower prices versus airways.
He stressed that the line will also provide opportunities for neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China.
Previously, Ahmet Sahin, Turkey's commercial counselor in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, said train services, which will accelerate Turkey-Pakistan trade, are expected to start at the end of September.
Stressing that the seaway and highway are slower and more expensive, he expressed that the freight train reduces shipment duration by seven days compared to the seaway.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said studies for the project came to the end.