Iran received the first cargo train from China on 15 February, according to news agency Mehr.

The train, which carried 32 containers of commercial products, left Yiwu in the north-western province of Xianjiang in China on 29 January and traversed some 9,500 kilometres passing through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan before arriving in a Tehran railway station.

The train route reduced freight travel time by 30 days compared with sea transport, according to Mohsen Purseyyed Aghaei, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI).

The milestone, characterised as historic in Iran, is understood to be an important component of China’s initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road route through which traders travelled from Europe to East Asia.

“On the basis of defined plans, the Silk Road railroad will be linked to Europe which means [the] Port of Shanghai in China will be connected to Europe through Iran,” Aghaei said.

Reviving its ageing rail network, estimated to extend a total of 10,000km, is a key priority for the Iranian government, following the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.

Projects in the pipeline include a high-speed train network between the capital Tehran and Isfahan, and the electrification of the 900-km rail route linking Tehran with Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city.