India Mulls Trans-Continental Container Train Service

In what may be seen as India’s response to China-Europe freight link, the South Asian country plans to launch a trans-continental container train service from Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka to Istanbul in Turkey.
The Indian Railways (IR) issued a statement on Friday, saying that the route of proposed train service would cover five countries – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. The IR also said that the proposed 6,000km route, codenamed the ITI-DKD-Y corridor, would connect six major cities – Dhaka, Kolkata, New Delhi, Islamabad, Tehran and Istanbul. The Narendra Modi government in New Delhi has asked the IR to eventually connect Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, with Dhaka in future.
The IR has already invited railway heads of all the five countries to attend a high-level meeting in the Indian capital on March 15-16 in order to discuss different aspects of the project. Chief of the Pakistani Railways Javed Anwar has welcomed the IR’s initiative, saying that his country is ready to join the project after fixing one issue with neighbouring India. Although Islamabad allows freight and passenger trains from New Delhi to Lahore via Attari, it does not allow movement of containers on this particular route for security reasons. Anwar said that he would have to discuss the issue with the Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan after attending the March 15-16 meeting in Delhi.
In the Indian capital, senior Board Member (Traffic) of the IR Mohammad Jamshed told the press that they wanted to launch the project in 2018. “The demonstration run will happen very soon in 2017 and we will sort out all the issues with the countries concerned. It’s a great leap for South Asian regional connectivity in the rail sector. This will also demonstrate to the world that there can be a real, commercial trans-Asian container corridor of this magnitude in the rail sector,” he stressed.
In November 2016, India sent a high-level Railway Ministry delegation to Bangladesh for discussing the project with the Sheikh Hasina government. Dhaka urged IR officials to keep the demonstration train relatively light as the railway bridge over the Padma River could not carry the load of heavy freight trains.
Meanwhile, a senior Indian official has admitted that Beijing’s decision to expand the map of Chinese Railways prompted India to connect Asia and Europe through a train service. In January, a container train reached London from eastern Chinese city of Yiwu via Germany, covering a distance of 12,000km. With the Chinese project demonstrating that it can be cheaper mode of freight movement between the Asian country and Western European nations, India (too) has decided to showcase its expertise in freight movement across continents.
India believes that IR can easily connect neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan’s railway networks with the proposed project at a later stage. IR officials are of the opinion that the Dhaka-Kolkata-Delhi-Amritsar-Lahore-Islamabad-Zahedan-Tehran-Istanbul route will enjoy the strategic advantage of connecting the capitals of various South, West and Central Asian countries. According to senior IR officials, the successful implementation of the project will help all the countries reduce the current high tariff and non-tariff costs, thus, giving a big boost to trade and economic development of the entire region. They are confident that the railway sector has a huge potential for participating in the regional economic growth.

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