International North–South Transport Corridor

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN ILHAM ALIYEV:  “Important steps have been taken in the direction of implementation of the North-South transport corridor.  Azerbaijan has fulfilled its tasks and provided the construction of the railway to the Iranian border and, beyond that, has built a railway bridge. So, Azerbaijan has taken all the necessary measures on its territory regarding the project and is ready to make a contribution to the overall implementation of the project. "

(From the inaugural speech at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the outcomes of the socio-economic development in 2017 and upcoming duties.  January 10, 2018)

Azerbaijan, situated at a strategically important location – intersection of two major international transport corridors leading from the North to the South and from the West to the East, has been playing a unique role of a bridge over the centuries.

Strenuous work on the realization of the International North–South Transport Corridor is under way today. Azerbaijan’s joining this corridor was approved by the national leader Heydar Aliyev. It was his consent that started some important activities in this direction. Since then, these issues have been thoroughly discussed at numerous meetings of the leadership of the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Azerbaijan with the heads of transport ministries and related organizations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation.

The Agreement on the International North-South Transport Corridor was concluded on September 12, 2000, in the city of St. Petersburg between the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of India. Having passed through all necessary internal procedures in the mentioned states, the Agreement came into force on 21 May, 2002. It covers all types of transport: transport infrastructure and vehicles, which provide transportation by railway, sea, road, river and air transport. An exception was made for India – the Agreement envisages this country’s participation in maritime transportations only. Forecasts show that if the international North-South transport corridor operates at full capacity, it will be able to provide European countries, Russia, Central Asia and Caucasus regions with access to the Persian Gulf and India and intensify the trade relations between Black Sea ports and Caspian littoral states. This corridor will make it possible to increase the volume of railway transportation between Europe, South Asia and Middle East, and respectively, the railway revenues derived from both internal and transit transportation.

On May 19-21, 2004, a tripartite meeting of the heads of Russian, Azerbaijani and Iranian railways was held in Moscow. Participants have discussed such topics, as creation of the International Consortium, attraction of transit cargo flow to the railways of the three countries (marketing researches), joint design and survey works, general issues and coordination of joint activities.

On July 24-27, 2005, a series of preparatory work were held in the Iranian city of Tehran. The construction and future operation of the international North-South transport corridor, the ways to create and finance the International Consortium, the share of each party in the construction, the ways to return the invested capital and other issues have been discussed at the event.

The main subjects of the tripartite meeting held in Baku on February 9, 2005, were the design, construction and future operation, mainly by Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, of Gazvin-Rasht railway line, as well as the establishment of the Joint Stock Company (SC) founded in connection with the design of the Astara (Azerbaijan)-Astara (Iran) railroad and approval of the charter capital of this company.

In this direction, certain work has been done since 2001 and this work is still under way. As a logical outcome of these works, the National Assembly approved the draft law On Azerbaijan's Joining the Agreement on the International North-South Transport Corridor and it was signed by President Ilham Aliyev on September 10, 2005.

It should be noted that the railway administrations of the states that the corridor will pass through have expressed their support for the acceleration of this process. At the meeting of the leadership of the railways of Azerbaijan and North Caucasus held in Yalama-Samur, the importance of the international North-South transport corridor for the economic development of our region and the important issues regarding its development have been discussed.

The participants have also discussed the issues related to the restoration of the day-and-night regime at the border crossing point, the establishment of a joint commission to expedite the inspection procedures and to conduct them at the relevant stations of the district, as well as the measures aimed at the acceleration of commercial, technical, customs and border inspection procedures.

The Azerbaijani side will build a 8.4 km railway line for the opening of this corridor, and will construct 4 yard tracks 1050 meters long (each). According to initial estimates, these measures will require approximately 60 billion manats. Land for construction has already been allocated. Construction of 2 out of 4 tracks will be enough at the first stage. Additional measures will have to be taken with the increase of transportation in the future.

Within the framework of the realization of the international North-South transport corridor there are plans to lay the Astara (Azerbaijan) - Astara (Iran) railway tracks to connect the Azerbaijan railways to the Iranian railway network.  The Border Railway Agreement was signed between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian side has designed the construction of a 101-meter-long railway bridge over Astarachay and obtained approval of it from the Azerbaijani side. The parties are expected to take part in this project with a 50% stake each. The Iranian side has to build a railway from the bridge to Astara (Iran). At the same time, railway experts have held several meetings in Astara (Azerbaijan) - Astara (Iran), discussed a number of issues regarding the acceleration of the transport corridor’s opening, jointly conducted relevant design and survey works and signed a Memorandum of Consent.

Issues related to the realization of the international North-South transport corridor have been discussed at the trilateral meetings held on the regular basis. On September 27, 2005, Moscow hosted a meeting of representatives of the railways of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia regarding the construction of the new railway line Ghazvin-Rasht-Astara (Iran)-Astara (Azerbaijan). The meeting was focused on the implementation of the agreement on the preparation of the construction and operation of the new Gazvin-Rasht-Astara (Iran)-Astara (Azerbaijan) railway line and the plans for the completion of the project.

At the trilateral meeting of the railway administrations of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia in Baku in the fourth quarter of 2005, the future implementation of the project was considered.

At present, the Yalama-Astara railway district, located on the North-South transport corridor, is capable of transporting up to 5 million tons of cargo, envisaged for the initial stages of the corridor’s operation. According to forecasts, the volume of cargo is expected to increase up to 10-15 million tons at the next stage, which requires a number of technical measures for complete fulfillment of this estimate and for observance of safety standards.

On June 17-19, 2008, Baku hosted another meeting regarding the implementation of the international North-South transport corridor. The following issues have been discussed at the event: works performed by the Iranian side on the construction of Gazvin-Rasht-Astara (Iran)-Astara (Azerbaijan) line, the part of the North-South international transport corridor project; consideration of the execution status of the documents signed at previous trilateral meetings; proposal by the Russian Railways Open Joint-Stock Company to create a Joint Cooperation Conception related to the project in order to accelerate the works; and issues concerning the preparation of a business plan for the Joint Cooperation Concept.­

Significant steps have been taken recently in the direction of realization of the International North-South Transport Corridor. Speeding up the work on the part of this corridor passing through the territory of our country is an imperative of our times. For this purpose, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree on December 7, 2015, On Accelerating the Work in the Section of the International North-South Transport Corridor Passing Through the Territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan. All efforts have been mobilized to fulfill the tasks arising from the decree.

On 3-4 August 2015, the Minister of Economy and Industry, co-chair of the State Commission on Economic, Commercial and Humanitarian Cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran, Shahin Mustafayev, chaired the delegation visiting Islamic Republic of Iran and the Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways Closed Joint Stock Company Javid Gurbanov also participated in this trip.

During the visit, the delegation met with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani and the heads of relevant organizations.

Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways Closed Joint Stock Company Javid Gurbanov held bilateral meetings with Iran's Road and Urban Planning Minister Abbas Ahmed Ahundi and Deputy Minister, General Director of Iran Railways Mohsen Purseyid Aghayi and got acquainted with the traffic control at the Iranian Railway Traffic Control Center.  During the meetings, the importance of this project for both countries was emphasized and it was decided to establish a working group on the International North-South Transport Corridor project.

On October 9-10, 2015, a bilateral meeting of the State Commission for Economic, Commercial and Humanitarian Cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran was held in Astara (Azerbaijan).

During the meeting, the parties discussed the progress of work on the International North-South Transport Corridor, discussed the infrastructure to be created, and reviewed the Astara (Azerbaijan) - Astara (Iran) section of the corridor.

At the end of the meeting, minutes of the meeting of the working group on the International North-South Transport Corridor Connection was signed within the framework of the State Commission for Economic, Commercial and Humanitarian Cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran. The protocol was signed by the Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC Javid Gurbanov and the Director General of the Railway of IRI, Mohsen Purseyid Agayi.

On November 2, 2015, a meeting was held between a Member of the Board of the Railways of IRI, Abbas Haj Fathaliha, and the Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways Closed Joint-Stock Company, Javid Gurbanov.

Speaking at the meeting, Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC Javid Gurbanov gave detailed information about the projects implemented in Azerbaijan Railways and the upcoming perspective tasks.

During the meeting, discussions were held on the International North-South Transport Corridor. It was decided that at the first stage the 101 meters long bridge over Astarachay would be constructed jointly, the 1.7 km long section of the Astara (Azerbaijan)-Astara (Iran) railroad line and cargo terminal on the Iranian territory would be constructed by the Iranian side and the construction of the 8.3 km road in Azerbaijan would be carried out by the Azerbaijani side.

On December 21, 2015, in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, a meeting of Azerbaijan and IRI Railway Working Group on the project of construction of Astara (Azerbaijan) - Astara (Iran) railway bridge over Astarachay in the frameworks of the International North-South Transport Corridor was held.

During the discussions the parties confirmed the legal force of the provisions of the minutes of the meeting between experts in Tehran on 8-9 November 2015.  The Iranian side presented 5 versions of the bridge project to Azerbaijan on 14.12.2015 and on 16.12.2015 the Azerbaijani side informed its Iranian counterparts about acceptance of the second version (3x26.75).

At the end of the discussions it was decided that the 1520 mm standard rail tracks of the railway line leading from Azerbaijan to Iran would be placed on the right and the 1435 mm standard rail tracks would be on the left, and vice versa on the Iranian side of the road.

It was also decided to organize a meeting at the project site on December 27, 2015, with the participation of the authorized representatives of the railway and border service and to determine the zero point of the bridge.

On January 12, 2016, the International Forum-Dialog named International North-South Transport Corridor: New Directions, Development and Perspectives was held.

The forum was attended by Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways Javid Gurbanov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Iran Railways Mohsun Purseyid Aghayi, Deputy Minister of Transport and Urban Planning Mohammad Seyidnejat, Chairman of Georgian Railways Joint Stock Company Mamuka Bakhadze, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Ukrainian Railways JSC Alexander Zavgorodniy.

Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways Closed Joint-Stock Company Javid Gurbanov said at the meeting that Azerbaijan is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and that transport agencies of our country are actively involved in the activities of the International East-West and North-South Transport Corridors.

On February 8, 2016 a meeting dedicated to the development of favorable cooperation between Russian Railways OJSC and Azerbaijan Railways CJSC was held in Moscow, Russian Federation.

The event was held in accordance with the agreement reached between the Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways CJSC Javid Gurbanov and the President of Russian Railways OJSC Oleg Belozyorov. 

Issues related to the organization of cargo transportation in the Russian Federation-Azerbaijan Republic direction, the development of the transit potential of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as the development of the International North-South Transport Corridor with the involvement of interested states were discussed at the meeting.

Members of the Delegation of Russian Railways JSC, RDY Logistics JSC, Azerbaijan Railways CJSC and ADY Express LLC, expressed their interest in cooperation over freight forwarding and handling, storage and transportation of cargoes along the following routes:

Indian Republic (Javahirall Nehru port (Nava-Sheva) - Islamic Republic of Iran (Bandar-Abbas-Gazvin-Astara) - Republic of Azerbaijan (Astara-Yalama) - Russian Federation (Samur-Moscow);

India (Javahirl Nehru port (Nava-Sheva) - Islamic Republic of Iran (Bandar- Abbas-Gazvin-Astara) - Republic of Azerbaijan (Astara-Yalama) - Russian Federation (Samur-Saint Petersburg);

Republic of India (Javahirrall Nehru port) - Islamic Republic of Iran (Bandar-Abbas-Gazvin-Astara) - Republic of Azerbaijan (Astara-Yalama) - Russian Federation (Samur-Buslovskaya) - Finland (Helsinki);

Islamic Republic of Iran (Tehran-Astara) - Republic of Azerbaijan (Astara-Yalama) - Russian Federation (Samur-Moscow).

After the discussions, the parties agreed to determine the appropriate rates for cargo routes.

On February 23, 2016, a number of documents were signed during the official visit of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The agreement between Azerbaijan Railways and Iran Railways on the construction of the railway bridge over Astarachay on the Azerbaijan-Iran border was signed by the Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways Javid Gurbanov and Deputy Minister of Transport and Urban Planning, General Director of Iran Railways Mohsen Purseyid Aghayi.

Russian Railways OJSC and Azerbaijan Railway CJSC have agreed on drawing cargo flows to the Azerbaijani and Russian railways via the organization of the cargo transportation through India-Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia and opposite route within the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor.

The work carried out to increase Azerbaijan's transit potential required the acceleration of works in the section of the International North-South Transport Corridor passing through our country.  For this purpose, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree on December 7, 2015, On Accelerating Works in the Section of the International North-South Transport Corridor Passing Through the Territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan. All efforts were mobilized following the Decree.

Azerbaijani side has fulfilled its tasks within the framework of this project. The 8.3 km long single-track railway from Astara station to the state border of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the construction of the railway bridge over Astarachay have been completed. The test train crossed the border over a newly built bridge.

At the same time construction of a 35 ha railway station in Astara (Iran) and construction of cargo unloading terminals is under way. In March of this year, the first phase of the Astara-Astara Railway Integration Project and the opening of the terminal were held. An agreement on the financing of the construction of the Astara-Rasht railway section between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran on the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran was signed during the visit of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani to Azerbaijan.

The creation of the International North-South Transport Corridor is a historic event indeed, as the corridor connects North Europe with South-East Asia.

The International North-South Transport Corridor project will serve the strengthening of the railway ties in Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation, as well as the transit and economic potential of these countries. It will also stimulate the flow of cargo in this direction.

Azerbaijan has high expectations for this corridor. The International North-South Transport Corridor connects Northern Europe with South-East Asia. Forecasts show that if the international North-South transport corridor operates at full capacity, it will be able to provide European countries, Russia, Central Asia and Caucasus regions with access to the Persian Gulf and India and intensify the trade relations between Black Sea ports and Caspian littoral states. This corridor will make it possible to increase the volume of railway transportation between Europe, South Asia and Middle East, and respectively, the railway revenues derived from both internal and transit transportation.

The Azerbaijani-Iranian business forum was held at the Heydar Aliyev Center as part of the Islamic Republic of Iran President’s official visit to Azerbaijan on March 29, 2018.

In the frameworks of the visit a video clip about the works implemented to establish North-South and South-West international transport corridors was demonstrated. The clip was about the Astara terminal of the Azerbaijan Railways on the territory of Iran.

The Agreement between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran on Financing the Construction of the Astara-Rasht Railway in the Islamic Republic of Iran was signed by the Minister of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Shahin Mustafayev and the Minister of Economy and Finance of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mesut Karbasian.