Iran on Sunday called for an expanded rail link between member states of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).
Abbas Akhoundi, Iran's minister of housing and urban development, told a forum of ECO railroad chiefs, that more efforts are still needed to increase the share of rail links in transportation systems that connect the Organization’s member states.
Akhoundi added that private-sector companies can be encouraged to lead projects to the same effect.
ECO comprises seven Asian and three Eurasian countries. Member states are Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The main purpose of the Organization - that was set up in 1985 – is to promote economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the member states.
Akhoundi described the inauguration of a new railway line between Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan as an important event for all the countries of the region.
“This project will help the prosperity of trade and transit in the eastern side of the Caspian Sea,” the Iranian minister said. “It will also facilitate transporting goods in the north-south corridor and will also help provide a better transit connection between Central Asia and Europe.”
“The goal in this project is to materialize the annual transport volume of 20 million tonnes,” said the Iranian minister. “For that to happen, the northern-southern train routes as well as rail links to Azerbaijan and Turkey need to be promoted,” he has been quoted as saying by IRNA.
Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan – all ECO members – inaugurated a railway corridor in December 2014 known as the North-South Route. The project opens up a direct rail connection between the three countries to the east of the Caspian Sea. The new line is expected to be used to transit goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, as well as oil and agricultural products.
“ECO’s share from direct foreign investments in the world is only three percent,” Akhoundi said. He further added that member states should make efforts to attract investments to expand their joint rail systems – what he said will lead to a broader cooperation over development projects.