On his return to India, he told reporters here that the 600 km rail track is to be extended to Tehran and then on to Amirabad port on the Caspian Sea. “This is then to go further to Astrakhan in Russia from where it would connect to St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea via Moscow,” Jena explained.
“Strictly speaking, I had gone there in my capacity as chairman of the International Union of Railways (UIC),” he said. UIC chairmanship runs in rotation and currently India heads this international body.
“India, Russia and Iran have been working on this project for a long time,” the Indian Railway Board chairman said.
“A high-level team of experts from the Indian Railways consisting of senior officials of the Railways’ subsidiaries RITES, IRCON and CONCOR is going to Tehran on a two-day visit on May 26 and 27 to take this proposal forward,” Jena said.
The Chabahar port, being developed by the Iranian government, is much closer to the western coast of India compared to the existing Bandar Abbas port and just a few nautical miles from the Gawadar port which Pakistan is developing in Baluchistan with Chinese cooperation.
Once this rail link starts operating, India will also have access to Afghanistan without passing through Pakistan.
This proposed 600 km rail link is likely to cost at least $1.4 billion at the current rate of steel in the international market, said V.K. Agarwal, chairman of RITES, which may finally handle this project.
Along with this, Jena also offered cooperation and Indian assistance in training Iranian technical and non-technical personnel in mechanical and electrical engineering institutes of the Indian Railways.