North South Transport Corridor – cheaper and faster
The North South Transport Corridor (NSTC) will be cheaper and faster – connecting India with the European Union and the Baltics and avoiding the Suez Canal. The NSTC took a major step as the investors Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia agreed competitive transit rates not to exceed $3000 per container, expected to be available to the market from next month, March 2016.
The NSTC intermodal transit time for containers sent between Russia and India will be reduced by 20-days, compared to the traditional 45-day ocean route via the Suez Canal to St Petersburg. It will be further reduced to 14-days as new infrastructure comes online.
The NSTC route will be operated by RZD Logistics, the logistics division of RZD Russian Railways, and traverse Azerbaijan and Iran. Iran is expected to complete construction of the $1.5 billion, 369 km stretch of Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway in 2019. On completion, 22 new tunnels and 15 bridges will have been built. The railway is being constructed in segments, with the Qazvin-Rasht leg expected to be commissioned in 2017.
Freight will be transported by rail from Bandar Abbas port to each newly commissioned rail head (Qazvin and Rasht) and then forwarded by truck to the Astara-Astara border crossing on the Azeri border prior to connection to the rail network.
The Iranians are also offering a second, short sea, option for European freight. From May 2016, consignments will be transported by rail from Bandar Abbas to Qazvin and by road to the Caspian Port, Amirabad. Regular departures will serve the new Azeri development at Alat Port (south of Baku) and connect with the Azeri-Georgian railway to the new deep water port at Anaklia on the Georgian Black Sea.
Cheaper and faster
Mohsen Pour Seyed Aghaei, Iranian government Vice Minister, Roads and Urban Development Chairman of the Board and Chairman of Iranian Railways, said at the recent “NSTC: new directions, development and prospects” Forum that they will transport 10-million tonnes of cargo every year.
“Qazvin-Rasht-Astara requires an investment of $1.5 billion. But this project is a priority for Iranian government and we will ensure the necessary funds. Development of cargo transportation could give momentum to global economic recovery.
“Shortening of transit routes, cutting costs and providing transportation of goods in a short time can contribute to the world economy. Iran is ready to fulfil its commitments in this area.
“Despite the economic pressure that we are facing because of low oil prices, we have all the opportunities to implement transit projects going through Iran.“
The Azeri rail link from Astara is the FSU standard 1520 mm broad gauge whilst the Iranian rail network is ‘standard’ 1435mm gauge. The break of gauge station is likely to be equipped with bogie exchange and variable gauge axle track gauge changing facility.