ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran have decided to resume a fortnightly passenger train service between them by September this year due to improvement in the security situation.
The decision was taken at a meeting of railway officials from the two countries on Thursday.
Zahedan Railways director general Majid Arjouni led the Iranian delegation and Railways Board secretary Zubair Shafi Ghauri chaired the meeting.
The passenger train service will run between Quetta and Mashhad or Qom, and will largely cater to the needs of pilgrims during Muharram.
Revision of 1959 agreement between railway departments of the two countries under consideration
Earlier, an international mixed passenger and freight service used to be operated twice a month by the Pakistan Railways (PR) between Quetta and Zahedan.
The train service named after the Iranian city used to run on the first and fifteenth day of every month from Quetta to Zahedan and the third and seventeenth of each month from Zahedan to Quetta.
It used to take 33 hours to cover a distance of 732km along the entire stretch of the Quetta-Taftan railway line.
Sources said that revision of the 1959 agreement between Pakistan Railways and Iranian Railways was under consideration. They said that PR had also revived communication with Taftan on the magneto telephone.
The railways ministry has decided to start running 15 freight trains between Quetta and Zahedan as per the demands of the business community. The railway authorities will soon inform the Iranian railways about the agreed upon date for running the trains.
According to the railways ministry, the Iranians said the booking of consignments for Zahedan should be made from Quetta due to operational and security reasons. “However, since the security situation is improving, PR will be in a position to dispatch consignments to other parts of the country as well,” the ministry said.
Representatives of the two countries were informed that a proposal for upgrading the existing feasibility study of the ML-III was in progress and would be finished this year.
The upgrade includes a complete replacement of the track structure, conversion of 183 dips into bridges, rehabilitation of old bridges and provision of proper signalling.
The PR officials said they wanted to introduce specialised containers for the transport of Liquefied Petroleum Gas from Iran. They also offered concessions in the freight structure to transport LPG from Iran.
To promote trade, the PR officials offered further concessions in their freight structure — the current freight rates are Rs800 per tonne for import and Rs500 per tonne for export.
They also discussed the ECO container train on the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) route. The PR said that merchants were discouraged due to the change of destination from Istanbul to Kosekoy. Therefore, the Pakistani side requested the Iranians to persuade the ECO secretariat for the train to go to Istanbul instead of Kosekoy.
The Iranian delegation expressed desire to import mechanical and civil material from the Pakistan Railways.
Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2018