Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), while giving a trade body of Pakistan a proposal, insisted upon reactivating ECO containers train, and also asked for usage of the Pakistani route that is currently with Turkey and Iran. Moreover, the organisation also asked Pakistani trade body Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) to increase the volume of trade which is very minimal (around 0.2 per cent) at the current stage. One of the members of transportation committee of ECO told Profit that during the last meeting held in Pakistan ECO insisted upon increasing the share of trade of Pakistan.
He further said that merely 40 per cent of NATO trade is being routed from Pakistan and the rest 60 per cent is being transported through Uzbekistan; yet one of the main issues of low cooperation from Pakistan is that ECO secretariat at Tehran does not share information with Pakistani trade bodies. But, Pakistan has to sign many important international contracts in order to have a plausible increase in its trade volume with ECO countries, and the main contracts the Ministry of Commerce has to sign are TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) and A Carnet de Passage, he added. It is to be noted that over 50 countries using TIP as the international customs transit system, while Carnet de Passage is a document that allows one to cross international borders with a vehicle and avoid paying customs charges. It is pertinent to mention that ECO containers train was inaugurated in 2009, but only after one journey it was annulled. So the reactivation of this train would surely help Pakistan to get better results in terms of trade increase, therefore, it should be a necessary step for government in the long run benefit of the country, he added.
ECO Train Railroad
The efficiency, growth and output of regional economic agreements come after the creation of infrastructures and increase in trade facilities in the region on a gradual basis.
Since the establishment of ECO the smoothening of transportation and transit among the member countries have been deemed necessary and many efforts have been made. In this respect, in the wake of the agreement between Iran, Pakistan and Turkey the railroad for ECO container train was determined and in 2009 was tentatively inaugurated in a ceremony at presence of officials of these countries and heads of railroad administrations of ECO member countries. Then a contract with an International consultant group was endorsed on finding the shortfalls of the railroad.
The authorities in charge of the train have stated that it was tentatively inaugurated to consider the possible problems arising from discrepancies of rail and lading systems of these countries. As a result, international consultants accompanied ECO Train through the path Islamabad-Zahedan-Tehran-lstanbul in 2009 to verify the flaws which were presented to ECO Secretariat in a comprehensive report.
This train has made great achievements in curtailing the transit route of the goods initially during 15 days it passed from Pakistan to Istanbul which was decreased to 11/5 days with measures adopted while it was necessary to spend 45 days in order to pass a cargo from Islamabad to Istanbul previously.
After consideration over the train route by the international consultants a meeting was held in ECO Secretariat in Tehran where the soft and hard flaws of the railroad route were discussed as the consultants offered their proposals and ultimately decreasing the passage time of the train to the minimum possible was put on the priority in planning of the 3 countries.
Specifications of railroad
The length of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul exceeds to 6,500 kilometers as 2,570 kilometers pass through Iran, 2,000 kilometers through Turkey and about 1,900 kilometers on the Pakistan soil. The running time of this route is half that of marine cargos and in comparison to road route is safer and more environment friendly. Capacity for load carriage by the train is currently 20, 40 feet cars. Extensive studies carried out and operationalisation of the plan has resulted in its introduction as an international corridor which was fortunately recognised by the United Nations.
Moreover the freight capacity of the ECO train along the route, the simultaneous capability to carry cargos and passengers should be noted. Based on considerations made by the consultants of the project, it is predicted that in case of establishment of Zahedan-Bam route it will be possible to carry 500 thousand passengers and two million tonnes of cargo whose final capacity would be one million passengers and eight million tonnes of cargo annually.
Nevertheless the capacities of the Eco train for cargo and passenger purposes have not yet been meticulously verified. ECO train currently operates once a month although in case of addressing the flaws and provision of infrastructures as well as availability of demand, the cargo transportation will be made on a weekly basis. In this project, the role of Iran as a linking hub of Pakistan to the Indian Peninsula as well as Turkey and Europe is of supreme importance.
As it was endorsed in the trilateral agreement between Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, it was accorded that other countries may join as government of India was aiming to access the Middle East and European markets has formally requested for accession into the ECO Train railroad project.
Pakistan Railroads Company has also received a similar request from Bangladesh where both countries have consented to use the Pakistan railroad services to transport cargo to Middle East and Europe. Although this project has been designed to promote the economic relations among ECO member countries admittedly it is counted as a short, safe and low cost route for transportation of goods between Asia and Europe. This rail road counts as the gate of South East Asia and Europe on the two sides playing a major role in cargo transit and economic development of the three countries.