Various news reports suggest that the Bam – Zahedan railway line in Iran is now physically complete. While there is no direct connection to any of the Afghan rail projects, this railway is important for “joining the dots” on the global railway map, as it is the missing link between the Iranian railway network and Zahedan, terminus of the 5’6″ gauge line which runs into Iran from Pakistan.
It seems there has been some kind of opening ceremony for the Bam – Zahedan line, but other articles suggest this might only have been held so that it was nominally finished before the recent Iranian elections were held.
Some reports suggest regular services might start on August 14 – which, whether by accident or design, is Pakistan’s Independence Day.
Until now Zahedan has been joined to the Indian subcontinent’s rail network, but not to the Iranian network. IRFCA has some history, and Dr John Stubbs wrote about the construction of the new line in the January 2007 issue of Railway Gazette International.
Via Google’s new Persian machine translation, I found this press release from Islamic Republic of Iran Railways. It gets a bit mangled in the translation (I don’t speak Persian), but is more or less understandable after some tidying up:
First passenger and goods trains to Zahedan station on the Kerman – Zahedan railroad
With the opening of the Kerman – Bam – Zahedan railway on 19/03/1388 [9 June 2009] southeast Asia was connected to Europe via Iran.
M. Hajian, Supervisor General at the Office of Public Relations of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, said: The first cargo and passenger trains were welcomed into Zahedan station in the presence of the Deputy Managing Director of Islamic Republic of Iran Railway, [list of bigwigs which hasn’t quite survived translation], the Governor of Sistan & Baluchestan province and a group of regional VIPs.
Hajian added that the railway links Kerman – Bam – Zahedan and Sistan & Baluchestan province.
He said: This rail route will save energy, reduce road traffic, create employment in the east and south-east of the country and through economic development will reduce the causes of deprivation in the province of Sistan & Baluchestan and Kerman, and offer the possibility of bypassing the port to connect the port of Chabahar with north – south transit routes.
He added: “The railway has 11 bridges, the largest bridge 400 meters long, and 20 tunnels totalling 5320 meters.