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Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid has said that economic progress of Pakistan and Iran is dependent on railways and upgradation of rail networks between them can boost it further. The minister said this during his meeting with a seven-member Iranian delegation headed by Mazari Yazdani, Vice-President of Technical and Infrastructure of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, held on Monday at Railways Headquarters.

The meeting was held to discuss different aspects of enhancing connectivity of both countries through rail networks. He said the government wants to develop better relations with the neighbouring countries including Iran. Pakistan is open to all kinds of cooperation be it technical or in terms of expertise from neighbouring countries.

"We are all set to bring modern technology to this organization to improve passenger service and boost freight traffic." The minister added: "We have floated a tender for upgradation of 613km long existing railway track from Quetta to Koh-e-Taftan on standard gauge which is connected to Zahidan on Iranian side. This track is pivotal for both the countries from economic point of view. Pakistan railways welcomes all the interested parties across the globe, including Iran, to participate in the bids on built operate and transfer (BOT) or public private partnership (PPP) basis.

The head of Iranian delegation, Mazari Yazdani, speaking on the occasion said that Pakistan is paying attention towards establishing regional rail links and integrating modern technologies, the minister added. The delegation during its three-day stay would visit the signal workshop, track machine and track workshop whereas meetings on infrastructure with the technical teams of railways will continue on the sidelines.

He further said that "we would like to know and understand the technical needs of Pakistan Railways and the areas of cooperation as well. Iran is currently linked to Turkey, Central Asia and three fourth of rail track to Afghanistan is almost completed. Iran and Pakistan are already linked through rail and further enhancement would advance trade relations between both the countries."

Sheikh Rashid underlined the need to strengthen the two-way cooperation between Pakistan and Iran in rail sector. The federal minister maintained that Pakistan can send its products to Central Asian and European states using the Iranian rail network.

Rasheed said Iran and Pakistan should cooperate in building railways links between Taftan and Quetta and Chahbahar and Gwadar. He said Pakistan has requested the Iranian authorities to invest in improving Zahidan, Taftan railways and Iranian counterparts have assured to cooperate.

The minister exchanged views on matters relating to restoration of Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul container train. Rasheed agreed to activate contacts between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey in order to resume the railroad project. The minister said that the Quetta-Taftan railway track project would be completed on BOT basis by the federal government.

Meanwhile, talking to media person, Sheikh Rasheed said that Prime minister Imran Khan will inaugurate Jinah Express train on March 30 at Lahore railways station which will leave for Karachi. Only Rs 7000 fare will be charged from each passenger travelling from Lahore to Karachi with free breakfast lunch and dinner.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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