Freight train in Iran. Photo: Flickr

‘Rail freight Turkey-Iran should reach million tonnes in 2021’

Rail freight volumes between Turkey and Iran should reach a million tonnes in 2021, according to the Turkish ministry of transport and infrastructure. In a recent meeting with Iranian counterparts, a new era for the transit railway was proclaimed. The railway link is part of the southern route of the New Silk Road, and would provide interesting alternatives for Europe-China traffic. 

On 12-13 January this year, a gathering of railway representatives in Turkey’s capital Ankara signed a memorandum of cooperation with Iranian counterparts to emphasise this common goal. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, three train services moved daily between Turkey and Iran in 2020, transporting 564,000 tons of cargo, the Turkish ministry said. On top of that, connections to Pakistan and Afghanistan should boost this traffic.


On 10 December, the long anticipated railway line between Iran and Afghanistan was opened. The launching of the Khaf (Iran)-Herat (Afghanistan) railway line was accompanied by the first freight train carrying agricultural goods. A week earlier, a test train transported 500 tonnes of cement between the two countries.This new line means that it is now possible to run trains between Turkey and Afghanistan via Iran, a potential which the Turkish authorities expect to boost traffic between the countries significantly. The railway administrations of Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan will come together in the coming months to set a course for rail transport between Turkey and Afghanistan.

Also for Pakistan the country has big plans. The ministry announced at the recent meeting that freight trains would run between Turkey and Pakistan via Iran on a common tariff between the three countries. Talks are still ongoing to set this tariff. Moreover, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan have reiterated that they want to revive services of the Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad train, not later than this year. This would boost traffic between Iran and Turkey even further.

Map of Istanbul-Tehran-Islamabad corridor

New Silk Road

The role of Turkey and Iran on the New Silk Road has often been discussed. It is referred to as the southern route, and it should provide an alternative channel for traffic between Europe and China. For long, the full potential of this route was not reached, partly due to political tensions in Iran. With the US sanctions on Iran reimposed in 2019, rail traffic suffered an initial setback. But in 2021, the market looks at the option more positively, it seems.

Also read:

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.