It aims to reach the 20.000 kilometers of network by the year 2025. the idea is to modernize the current ancient links and to double many of the routes and to build new lines.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a key geographical area for communications with Europe, the Middle East and Western Asia. This country, the eighteenth largest in the world, has 1,648,195 km2 and is divided into 30 provinces. At present, it has more than 78 million inhabitants, making it the seventeenth most populous country in the world, with increasing urban transport needs. It is also ranked 27th among the world’s economies.
Its strategic position has led to a very representative historical weight in the connection and transit routes between continents. The country has land and maritime borders with 15 states (with a coastline with the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman) and it is very close to the Strait of Hormuz, which is crossed by almost 20% of the oil; therefore, it is a very important strategic point for international trade, and the Indian Ocean. A combination that makes Iran an essential logistical transit route. Hence, in recent years, the investment plans have intensified so as to achieve powerful railway and airport networks.
At present, the major weight of transport by train is in the freight area, especially in the links from North to South.
Strategic crossing area
One of the main axes that are the most promoted is precisely the one that links Iran to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, provided that, once full capacity is achieved, the country would become a strategic area of the Eastern Caspian. As regards the passengers, the two most important routes are those linking Tehran to the cities of Isfahan and Mashhad.
Since August 2013, a stage marked by the desire to promote sectors of special relevance, including the railway industry, has started. This means of transport plays a very important role among the “Priority Investment Projects” of the “Sixth Five-Year Plan 2016-2021” approved by the Iranian Government. The objective is to enhance the geostrategic location of the country as a transit route, making Iran a reference logistics center and to promote a better integration of the Iranian, Western Asian and international communities with each other.
The Iranian railway network has 13,600 kilometers, of which 1,426 are double-track, while there are around 150 electrified tracks according to the data provided by the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development. 35 million tons of freight are annually transported and 27 million passengers are registered, representing 8% and 6% of the total, respectively.
Although, these figures are planned to improve so that the 20,000 kilometers of network may be reached by the year 2025. The idea is to modernize the current ancient links and to double many of the routes and to build new lines and givegreater prominence to metropolitan transport with the opening of numerous metro networks.
Structure of the railway industry
The RAI (Islamic Republic of Iran Railways) is the national state-ow- ned railway system of Iran. On its turn, it has two major subsidiaries. The first one, the Railway Trans- portation Company, manages and coordinates freight transport. The second, Zarand Company, which is in charge of the track system, both for the transport of passengers and freight.
The major passenger transport operator “Raja Passenger Trains Company” was founded in 1996. Its services include international routes with Damascus and Istanbul.
In recent years, the role of the private sector has grown, as the Iranian railways have been delegating areas and functions. Thus, it has gained prominence in both the rolling stock ownership and services operation and in the participation in financing, network maintenance works and development projects and infrastructure plans’ tendering.
At present, there are a number of government, public-private and private companies that operate in the industry and which play an active role.
In freight transport, the most rele- vant are: Rail Tarabar Tous,Foulad Rai Jonoub,MCPars,Samand Rail,Touka Rail,Gohar Tarabar Sirjan,Tajarob Koushesh Sepahan,Bana Gostar Karaneh, Rah Ahan Homl o Naghl (RAI) and Rail Tarabar Fajr.
As regards the plans for the construction of new railway kilometers, it directly depends on the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development (MRUD). Three of its subsidiaries are in charge of the projects’ implementation and performance: the Iranian Railways (RAI) and Iran Rail Transport Company (IRTC) companies, in charge of the metro networks, and Construction and Development Transportation Infrastructure Company (CDTIC). The Government plans to allocate 40,000 million Euros for land and air transport infrastructures over the next four years.
Railway: essential until 2021
This matter is included in the “Sixth Five-Year Plan 2016-2021” where the railway is one of the pillars in terms of transportation. More than 100 leading projects are included in this extensive program and, as a center of many of these initiatives, the train in all its versions (international branches, freight, metro, electrification and modernization of lines, etc.). For this reason, a significant amount of the global budget, i.e. around 23,000 million Euros will be aimed to re-launch the industry and modernize the entire network. Of the 1,000 kilometers of network planned, a part will be high-speed, with speeds that could reach up to 250 km / h.
Iran’s Vice Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Saeid Mohammadzadeh, has recently pointed out that the objective of these investments is to increase passenger traffic to at least 18%, while freight traffic will increase by around 30% after completing this action plan.
This progress towards new and modern transport infrastructures pays a special attention to the participation and attraction of private sector investment.
Iran’s railway industry has great opportunities for cooperation, especially in projects such as high-speed lines between large cities; the electrification of networks, the manufacture of rails; the supply of equipment, wagons, rolling stock and locomotives. In addition to the assistance in technical issues such as electronic supervision, installation of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) or signaling, railway communications.