Development of INSTC proceeds with Rasht – Astara and Azerbaijani terminal

Image: Azerbaijan Railway (ADY)

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is taking another step forward in its development. Russia and Iran are moving forward with the realisation of the Rasht – Astara railway and Azerbaijan has laid the foundations for freight transportation with a new cargo terminal.

The conclusion of an agreement between Russia and Iran on the Rasht – Astara railway, the last missing piece of the western INSTC, has enabled further progress on the route. The countries will now be moving ahead with survey work.

Russian deputy minister for transport Dmitry Zverev commented on the state of the Rasht – Astara railway. “We hope that we can embark on survey works already in the month of June. An executive contract will be signed, and construction will start in this year in accordance with the design, in order to launch the line already in 2028”, the deputy minister said. Initially, the Rasht – Astara railway was supposed to be operational by 2024.

Earlier, it was reported that Russia had agreed to finance the projected cost for the rail line at 1,6 billion euros. While the cost of construction remains unchanged, Azerbaijani media now report that Russia and Iran will take out a joint interstate loan at 1,3 billion dollars to finance the Rasht – Astara railway as part of an agreement signed on 17 May.

Azerbaijani Astara terminal

At the same time, Azerbaijan has finished reconstructing a rail terminal in its own Astara region, across the border from Iran. Azerbaijan Railways (ADY) says that the terminal upgrade will enhance the handling capacity and speed of cargo transshipments.

ADY expects the terminal upgrade to bring “substantial economic benefits”. It expects freight transportation along the INSTC to gain a ten to fifteen per cent boost by the end of 2024. The Azerbaijani rail company also built a cargo terminal across the border in Iranian Astara. Since its completion in 2018, freight volumes have grown more than threefold.

Moreover, ADY says that the completion of the Rasht – Astara railway will likely provide a boost to cargo volumes transiting to both of its terminals in Azerbaijani and Iranian Astara. The completion of the last missing rail section along the western INSTC would enable rail-only transport between Russia and the Iranian Persian Gulf ports.

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Author: Dennis van der Laan

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