LAHORE: After a gap of nine years or so, the Istanbul-Islamabad freight train is likely to resume operations on March 4, connecting goods train business of three countries —Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.
“We have been informed by the quarters concerned that the container train would start its journey from Istanbul (Turkey) for Islamabad (Pakistan) via Zahidan on March 4. Though the schedule will be reconfirmed in a day or two, so far March 4 is the final date of departure of the train from Istanbul,” said a senior official of the Pakistan Railways while speaking to Dawn on Sunday.
“In Pakistan, ministries of foreign affairs and railways are coordinating with the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Secretariat that is also in contact with the respective departments/ministries of Turkey and Iran,” he added.
Since the train will complete the one-side trip in 12 days, it is expected to reach the Islamabad dryport on March 16. “Pakistan Railways also plans to resume this train operation from 19th, as it is currently booking cargo for Iran and Turkey,” the official added.
Minister for Railways Azam Khan Swati told Dawn that he would receive the train on March 16.
According to Pakistan Railways record, the first train from Islamabad to Istanbul was inaugurated on August 14, 2009. Similarly, the first train from Istanbul to Islamabad dryport reached on August 13, 2010.
So far eight trains have been dispatched from Pakistan to Turkey, with the last leaving the Lahore dryport 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.
“The train named ‘ECO Train’ will be operated regularly on the Thursdays falling in the first week of every month. The permissible load will be 750 gross tonnes. The train length would be 420 metres,” reads a related document.
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.
Talking to Dawn, Chief Marketing Manager of Pakistan Railways Kashif Yousfani said a follow-up meeting was scheduled for Monday (today).
“March 4 is a tentative schedule for the departure of train from Istanbul. But it has been reported to us that the cargo comprising 24 containers have so far been booked from Turkey to Iran and Pakistan,” he added.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2021