Central Asian development body Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) is carrying out feasibility studies into three international railway line projects that pass through Iran.

The first project involves the construction of a 2,346-kilometre standard-gauge railway that will run between China and Iran via Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The financial feasibility study has been completed for the Afghanistan section of the line and a study has now started for the Tajikistan section. The construction of this line will cost about $4bn. The ECO says it will hold a conference in China in six months to help raise funds to finance the scheme.

The purposed rail schemes
Project Length Status Completion date
China-Kyrgyz Republic-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran 2,346km Under study na
Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran [cargo] 900km Under study October 2011 (first phase)
Almaty-Bandar Abbas na Under study 2011 (test run)
na=Not available. Source: Economic Cooperation Organisation

The second project involves the construction of a 900km cargo line that will run from Uzen in Kazakhstan, through the towns of Gyzylgaya, Bereket and Atrek in Turkmenistan, to end at Gorgan in northern Iran. The ECO is trying to secure investment in this line. The first phase (Uzen-Turkmenistan) is due to begin operating by 27 October, which will be the 20th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s independence. When it is fully complete, this line will be able to transport between five and 12 million tonnes of cargo each year.

The third involves a study to launch a container train on the route that runs from Almaty in Kazakhstan to the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran. The first demonstration run on this route is expected to take place in the first half of 2011.

The ECO is also carrying out a feasibility study into operating a train between Istanbul, Tehran and Almaty. In August 2010, the ECO successfully started regular operations on a route that runs from Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul.

The ECO comprises 10 countries, which are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Together, the region has 52,067km of railway lines.