Last week we looked at how the easing of trade sanctions on Iran has led to a rush from rail companies to fill a 30+ year gap in rail investment. This week we see another major development for the country and all of Asia with the arrival in Tehran of the first freight train travelling on the new ‘Silk Road’ rail route from China. The train, carrying 32 containers of commercial products, arrived in the Iranian capital after a 14-day, 10,399 kilometre (6,462 mile) journey, Beginning in Yiwu City in eastern China and taking in an arc of Central Asia that included Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan before arriving in Tehran this week. The cargo train, travelling at an average distance of 700km per day, is part of a revival of the ancient Silk Road, that used to connect Asia with the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Except this time rather than camels and horses its wagons and locomotives driving the reignition of this once thriving trade and cultural connection.
With Chinese domestic economic growth slowing, an increase in exports are needed to pick up the slack and it is the rapidly growing central Asian republics alongside a reconnected Iran that Beijing see as a key area for them. These nations form the largest chunk of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative which focuses on connectivity and consists of two main components, the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) of which this train link is a part and the oceangoing "Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).
Quoted by Iran’s Press-TV, Head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, Mohsen Pourseyyed Aqai stated that; “The arrival of this train in less than 14 days is unprecedented. The time spent by this train has been 30 days shorter compared with the maritime route, which starts from China’s Shanghai port and ends in Iran's Bandar Abbas port city.”
To support this development Beijing has launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with $US 100 billion in capital and the New Silk Road Fund with a capital of $US 40 billion to finance major infrastructure projects in the region so expect the developments in Asia and Eurasia to keep on coming.
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