Rail Freight

Pakistan-Turkey train again on way


A ceremony was held on 5th of January at Ankara for Islamabad-Izmit train, which had restarted after a delay of 10 years.

First train on Pakistan-Turkey route, which departed from on 21st of December from Islamabad, carrying pink salt on 8 wagons, had arrived at Izmit. A ceremony was held at Ankara, while train is passing by the city. First train had completed this 6543 kilometers in 13 days. The second train had also departed on 28th of December from Islamabad, carrying 525 tonnes of soapstone.

Islamabad-Izmit freght train route

The train was held for the first time in 2009, but was suspended soon after due to operational problems. In early 2021, there was another attemp, which did not succeed.

The new train has to struggle with several issues. The biggest one is the low demand. First train carried only 8 wagons and 150 tons, where standard block trains carry at least 500-600 tons. Though, second is a heavier one, 525 tonnes, which is currently at Iran. The back loads from Turkey is not secured yet. On the other hand, India and Afghanistan are also interested to use this corridor for reaching Turkey and Europe, which will surely increase the demand, if successful.

The other issue is the sanctions for Iran. Though train is currently crossing Iran transit without getting any load, any route via Iran has always been a question mark for companies trying to avoid sanctions.

The difference in rail gauge between Pakistan and others (Turkey and Iran) is another disadvantage of the train. The loads has to be shifted at Pakistan-Iran border, since wagons of Iran/Turkey and Pakistan have different wheels.The first train was not a container train, but a conventional one, which means, loads had to be shifted from Pakistan wagons to Iran/Turkey wagons at Zahedan. Transhipment on way is always a problem, thus Islamabad-Istanbul train will have more chance if it can be converted to container train.

The travel time is told to be competitive with sea, 13 days, almost half of sea. However the speed is half of the speed of trains in trans-Asian routes, especially between China and Europe. In order to use the speed for competition, train will need loads with higher value.

Supply of wagons in Iran is always a problem for trains to Turkey. Iran wagons are owned by separete private companies, not RAI. Thus very few wagons are sent from Iran to Turkey for international loads. For loads from Iran to Turkey, the TCDDT wagons are being waited most of the time, which is causing unreliability.

Cover photo: Vitali ©

3 replies »

  1. Hi,

    considering that in Van there are two ferry breaks, a transfer of the goods on turkish wagons at the time of ferry would not simplify the returns of the wagons, which would therefore be three sets, for the Pakistani and Iranian routes (plus the initial route in Turkey) and turkish?

    • No, as written in post, Iranian wagons are not in charge. Van Lake is not that much tiring any more with new ferries.

  2. I noticed a number of green Iranian wagons at Genc on the Tatvan – Elazig section back in November 2021, they I presume carried coal.
    It’s the first time I have seen Iranian wagons in Turkey to.

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