North-South International Transport Corridor
Geographical position of the North-South Corridor
A significant part of the North-South International Transport Corridor (ITC) passes through the territory of Russia. The land section of the North-South corridor runs along Russia's railways from the Finnish border to the Caspian Sea, stretches for about 3,000 km and in the northern sector coincides with ITC No. 9. This main line provides access to the Baltic region, Ukraine and Belarus and from these regions and countries on to the rail network in Eastern and Western Europe.
In developing transit and foreign trade freight flows along the North-South corridor, the core focus is the railway line between Buslovskaya – St. Petersburg – Moscow – Ryazan – Kochetovka – Rtishevo – Saratov – Volgograd – Astrakhan, a distance of 2,513 km.
Russian Railways is working hard to create the necessary infrastructure to handle the growing traffic along this route. In 2004, Russian Railways financed and built a railway line connecting the new international port of Olya on the Caspian Sea to Russia's overall rail network. A new intermodal route was formed that regularly delivers containerised cargo to Iran.
The main advantages of the North-South ITC compared to other routes (in particular, the sea route via the Suez Canal) is that it reduces the transportation distance by twofold or more. The cost of transporting containers from Germany and Finland to India will thus be significantly less than the cost of shipping freight by sea.
Transportation routes of the North-South ITC using different modes of transport
- Trans-Caspian: via the ports of Astrakhan, Olya and Makhachkala. The participation of railways in this option includes freight delivery to ports and its outward carriage and export.
- The corridor's eastern branch line: a direct rail link through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan with access to Iran's railway network via the Tejen – Serakhs border crossing.
- The corridor's western branch line: towards Astrakhan – Makhachkala – Samur, then through Azerbaijan with access to Iran via the Astara border station. Or from Samura across Azerbaijan and Armenia with access to Iran through the Julfa border station.
The creation of the North-South ITC
An intergovernmental agreement on a North-South International Transport Corridor between Russia, Iran and India was signed in St. Petersburg during the second Euro-Asian Conference on Transport on 12 September 2000. In May 2002, the transport ministers of the participating countries signed a protocol on the corridor's official opening in St. Petersburg.
The Islamic Republic of Iran was selected as the depositary country for the Agreement. The ITC North-South governing body is a Coordinating Council (CC) chaired by the member countries on a rotation basis for a period of one year. Two expert groups come under the CC: Commercial and Operational Issues, and Documentation, Customs Procedures and Related Matters.
At the moment, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Oman and Syria have acceded to the Agreement. Turkey and Ukraine have applied for accession.
Purpose of the Agreement on the North-South International Transport Corridor
- improve the efficiency of transport links for passenger and freight transport along the North-South ITC;
- facilitate access to the international market for rail, road, sea, river and air transport services of the countries to the agreement;
- facilitate increased volumes of international passenger and freight transport;
- ensure vehicle safety and movement, the safety and integrity of goods and environmental protection in accordance with international standards;
- harmonise transport policy and legal regulation in the transport sphere;
- establish non-discriminatory access conditions for transport providers on various modes of transport within the North-South ITC.
Measures aimed at achieving the objectives of the North-South ITC Agreement
- reduce transportation times across the territory of the countries acceding to the Agreement;
- minimise transit costs;
- simplify and harmonise all administrative documentation and procedures (including customs) on transit freight across the territories of the participating countries in accordance with accepted international agreements and standards.
Russian Railways is interested in the formation of an integrated railway infrastructure along the North-South International Transport Corridor, namely the creation of a land bridge of about 4,500 km stretching from the Baltic Sea to the port of Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf, which will connect North-West and Central Europe with the countries of the Near and Middle East and South Asia.
According to expert estimates, the North-South ITC's commodity market is forecast to reach 25-26 million tons by 2015.
At the summit of the Caspian littoral states held in Tehran on 16 October 2007, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed a memorandum on the construction of a new Caspian railway line between Uzen – Gyzylgaya – Bereket – Etrek – Gorgan, to be followed by access to the Russian rail network. The total length of the line will be 670 km (130 km of which will be in Kazakhstan, 470 km in Turkmenistan and 70 km in Iran). It is planned that each of the parties will only finance the construction of the line on its own territory. The new line will be 600 km shorter than the existing link via Serakhs. Construction will take 4-5 years.
The Iranians are constructing a railway line between Qazvin – Rasht – Anzali port with a branch line to Astara and to the border with Azerbaijan.
In addition, a railway line between Bafq – Zahedan is now under construction to provide a direct rail link between Iran and Pakistan. This line will provide access to the North-South corridor and to South Asia without requiring additional transshipment at Iran's ports on the Persian Gulf.