Indian Railways is exploring the possibility of a trans-continental container train service from Dhaka to Istanbul, covering 6,000-km across five countries - Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.
Codenamed the `ITI-DKD-Y' corridor, the container train will follow the Dhaka-Kolkata-Delhi-Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul route.
The ambitious international project aims to significantly reduce the currently high tariff and non-tariff costs to trade between these countries and could be a major boost for trade and economic development of the Asia Pacific region
Even though Bhutan and Afghanistan do not have rail connectivity at present, Bhutan can be connected by road from Kolkata and in Afghanistan containers can be loaded by connecting road routes with the railway network at Quetta.
Eventually, Yangon will also be connected to Dhaka after the missing Tamu-Kalay link in Myanmar is completed.
A report in The Indian Express said the Indian Railways has invited South Asian railway heads who are involved in the project for a high-level meeting on 15-16 March.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has conducted various conferences and feasibility studies on rail network connecting Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.
ESCAP has identified Dhaka-Kolkata-Delhi-Amritsar-Lahore-Islamabad-Zahedan-Tehran-Istanbul as the possible rail route, according to railway ministry sources.
Meanwhile, a long-missing link of 150 km in Zahedan, in the Baluchestan province of Iran, which is an important link in the route, has now been completed – which makes the Trans-Asian Railway Southern Corridor almost ready. Only certain operational exchange of notes and coordination between the nations concerned are needed now.
Mohammad Jamshed, Railway Board Member (Traffic), said the demonstration run will take place very soon in 2017 and all issues will be sorted out with the countries concerned.
The ITI-DKD route has the strategic advantage of connecting the capitals of all these countries.
According to the Railways, a demonstration container train between Bangladesh and India has been planned in the first quarter of 2017-18, the modalities for which have been agreed by senior Railway officials of both countries.
The 15-16 March meeting is aimed at discussing some common technical and operational parameters between the railway systems of the countries involved.
So far, all countries have on paper endorsed the project and have said that the demonstration is technically feasible.