Gap in Britain to India rail route closed?

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.

Iranian DMU

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.

Map of Bam - Zahedan railway

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.

Seat61 is probably the place to start if you are planning a journey from Britain to India by train (and two ferries – shortly to be one ferry when the Marmaray project in Istanbul is completed).

7 thoughts on “Gap in Britain to India rail route closed?

  1. The first testtrain has arrived at Tehran station 24 august. See Iran Dayli !
    When will we see pictures from Zahedan ???
    Why dont they show pictures ?
    When will google update on Zahedan ?

  2. Iran, Pakistan, Turkey to launch freight train soon
    The first freight train running between Islamabad and İstanbul through Tehran will start operating on Aug. 12, Pakistani news reports said over the weekend.

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    “The Economic Cooperation Organization [ECO] container train will be running between Islamabad and İstanbul through Tehran on the first Thursday of every month,” an official of the Pakistani Ministry of Railways was quoted as saying on Saturday by

    The first trans-country and fourth international train service to be operated by Pakistan Railways would leave İstanbul and Islamabad simultaneously, the report noted.

    All three countries are founding members of the ECO, which is an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among member states.

    In March 2009, during a meeting of senior railway officials of the three countries, Turkey, Pakistan and Iran had agreed in principle to start such a container train service.

    Containers carrying commercial goods are currently sent from Turkey to Pakistan by ship. Pakistani authorities say the train service will reduce costs and make transportation more convenient. Turkey and Iran already have railway connections at their borders, and both have freight and passenger train services.

    “An ECO passenger train is already operating between İstanbul and Tehran, and its service will shortly be extended to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. The modalities to extend its operation to Pakistan are being considered,” the same Pakistani official also said.

  3. PR Director Public Relations Mohsin Yousuf, in a press statement on Saturday, 9th April, 2011 said the train had become a monthly service since August 2010 and runs on first Thursday of each month between Pakistan and Turkey. He said the ECO container train, re-named as Gul Express, was an ongoing project for which a high-level working group comprising railway experts of Pakistan, Iran and Turkey held meetings periodically to evolve a sustainable timetable.
    He said the train should observe a timely schedule of 11 days from Islamabad to Istambul via Tehran, according to the given parameter, however, the train could not abide by the timetable because of natural hazards.
    He said the train was soon becoming a bi-monthly service to be followed by weekly service in the near future.

  4. The real missing railway link allowing Russia to send goods by rail to Southeast Asia is the connection between Narmashir ( near Bam ) and Iranshahr ( about 290 km ). In addition to the economic aspects, this railway link would also allow European tourists to reach Chabahar ( by train from Turkey) and from there take a boat ( cruise ship ) out to india (Bombay, Goa, etc.). It would be such a huge dream come true if the autorities and tourism organisations were willing to get back together and launch / carry out this project . It’s time to get this new project underway. You should not miss this special golden opportunity.

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