Russian Railways plans direct link to Iran via Azerbaijan

MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's rail monopoly is developing a trilateral project with Azerbaijan and Iran to build a direct rail link between Russia and Iran, Russian Railways (RZD) said in a statement Tuesday.

Jointly with Azerbaijan, RZD "is developing a trilateral project to build a railroad to connect Qazvin, Rasht and Astara, which is aimed at establishing a direct railway route between Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran and attract new cargoes to the International North-South Transport Corridor," the statement reads.

Astara is on Iran's border with Azerbaijan, where the new tracks would connect to the existing Azeri and Russian networks.

RZD signed its first contract with Iran's railways in late March 2008 to upgrade a 46km railroad between Tabriz, Iran's fourth-largest city, and Azarshahr. The parties are also considering involving RZD in other infrastructure projects in Iran.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multimode transportation network established by Iran, Russia and India in 2000 and later expanded to include 11 other states. This corridor links the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran.

The bulk of INSTC traffic goes along Russian railroads.

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