The Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IR) is the national state-owned railway system of Iran. Raja Passenger Train Company is an associate of the IR and manages its passenger trains including international trains between Tehran and Istanbul and Tehran and Damascus. The Railway Transportation Company is an associate of the IR to manage its freight transport. The Iranian Ministry of Roads and Transportation is the state agency that oversees the IR.
Network and corridors
The railway network converges on Tehran and connects all major parts of the country with the exception of the Southeast. Importantly, Iran lies at the crossroads of East-West and North-South transportation corridors that are active or potentially active. The western railway extension links to Turkey at the Razi–Kapikoi border. A northern connection to Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, and Russia has a bogie-changing station at the border at Jolfa. The southern routes connect Tehran to the Persian Gulf ports of Bandar Imam and Bandar Abbas. A line to the Caspian Sea ends at the terminal of Amir Abad and at Bandar Torkaman, and is part of a North-South corridor to Russia and Scandinavia. The north-east corridor connects Mashad and continues further to the bogie-changing station at Sarakh. For the landlocked countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, this line provides access to the sea. A recent connection from Mashad to Bafqh has significantly shortened access to the harbor of Bandar Abbas.
Link to Central Asia
In recent years the railways have undergone significant extensions including the 1977 linking to the western railway system at the Turkish border, the 1993 opening of the Bandar Abbas line providing better access to the sea, and the 1996 opening of the Mashad–Sarakhs branch as part of the Silk Road railway to link to the landlocked Central Asian Countries. Former states of the Soviet Union have railways using a wider gauge, thus the Iranian Railways maintain break-of-gauge services at borders to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and beyond brief wide-track rail segments to the border crossing. In 2007, Russian Railways, Iranian Railways and Azerbaijani State Railways agreed on implementing the project to build a new railways line between Qazvin, Resht, Astara (Iran) and Astara (Azerbaijan).
International Standard Gauge route to Europe
The route to the west into Turkey terminates at Van with a 90km (55 mile) train ferry for both freight wagons and international passenger traffic (baggage car only) across Lake Van, which is at an altitude of 1650m, to Tatvan. The standard gauge route continues via Ankara to Istanbul via another train ferry between the Haydarapasa terminus on the eastern side of the Bosphorus and the Sirecki terminus on the European shore. This crossing will be bypassed by the Marmaray Crossing, a dual track rail tunnel, due to open in 2009.
Link to Pakistan
Current projects include a line from Kerman eastward via Bam to Zahedan to link up with Pakistan and connect to Quetta. This connection will bridge the last gap of rail connection between the Indian subcontinent and Europe. The link is due to open by December 2008 (confirmed by Chief of Iranian Railways in mid-2007). Various sections can be seen under construction on Google Earth maps updated to 2007. A bogie changing station is under construction south of Zahedan but Iran Railways is seeking to persuade Pakistan Railways to convert its route to Quetta to standard gauge to facilitate the flow of international traffic to Europe. Pakistan responded in 2006 with a statement that it is to convert its network to standard gauge (1.435m), and would plan a link with the standard gauge system of China.