Cost: $2 billion
Construction period: Unknown
China, which wants to create more robust rail corridors across Asia, is offering to build a $2-billion freight rail line in Iran. If continuous railway corridors were in place and, standard-gauge track installed from end to end, containerized freight could travel from China to Europe much more rapidly by rail than it does by ship, the Chinese claim.
In September 2010, Liu Zhijun, China's railway minister, and Hamid Behbahani, Iran’s minister of roads and transportation, signed an agreement that calls for building a 569-kilometer rail line from Tehran west to Khosravi on the Iraqi border.
Starting in Iran's capital city at an elevation of 1,200 meters, the line will ascend through the Zagros Mountains, with stops at Arak (1,718 m) and Hamedan (1,759 m) before descending to Kermanshah (1,350 m) and the border town of Khosravi (390 m). This route will offer a more efficient option than trucking for products being exported to Iraq, such as agricultural products, cement, steel and batteries.
The line also will offer passenger service to many of the 5,000 Shi'ite Iranians who make pilgrimages daily to the Iraq holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.
According to a May article in the Middle East Economic Digest, Iran's Roads and Transportation Ministry has invited contractors to submit bids for the new line.
In the long term, the route holds the promise of connecting with Baghdad and even Syria as part of a Middle Eastern corridor.
Iran and Iraq have never had a rail link. However, Iraq and Syria revived their freight rail link in 2009, and Jordan is currently soliciting bids to build a rail line that will connect the port of Aqaba to Baghdad.
"China is committed to building a railway network in western Iran and Turkey and Central Asia," says Niklas Swanstrom, executive director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University. "For China, this is a long term project to link the Middle East to China in a financially constructive way."
PAN ASIA Rail project is also near completion.
China pledged to fix design flaws blamed for a high-speed rail crash last July and punish the officials responsible, as the government released the results of an investigation that sought to allay criticism of how the accident was handled.
Mismanagement and design flaws were the main causes for the crash that killed 40 people near the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou, according to the report issued yesterday by the State Council, China’s cabinet. The government punished 54 officials and ordered the railway ministry to improve management of the high-speed rail network, the report said.
Suspicions of corruption sparked by the February removal of Railway Minister Liu Zhijun and the discovery of a two-year-old alive as crews cleared wreckage fueled public outrage over the accident. The outcries prompted nationwide safety checks, project delays and a call on the front page of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper for economic development that isn’t “stained with blood.”
“They realize that a breakneck pace of expansion is not sufficient to guarantee success and delivering service is higher up their priority list,” said Patrick Chovanec, an associate professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management in Beijing. “Has that changed the dynamic of officials being rewarded for generating growth while other things are secondary? I doubt it.”