The Islamic Republic of Iran Railways(abbreviated IRIR or sometimes RAI) is the national state-owned railway system of Iran.The Raja Passenger Train Company is an associate of the IR,and manages its passenger trains.The Railway Transportation Company is an associate of the IR to manage its freight transport.The Ministry of Roads & Urban Development is the state agency that oversees the IRIR. Some 33 million tons of goods and 29 million passengers are transported annually by the rail transportation network, accounting for 9 percent and 11 percent of the whole transportation in Iran.


In 1886,during the time of Nasser-al-Din Shah,an 8.7 km 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 inmeter gauge horse-driven suburban railway was established south of Tehran,that was later converted to steam.This line was closed in 1952.First Iranian railway set up in 1887 between Mahmudabad abad and Amol which construction was completely private however it did not use for several problems.The Tabriz–Jolfa line(146 km)was built in 1914,the Sufiyan –Sharafkhaneh (53 km)in 1916,and the Mirjaveh – Zahedan (93 km)in 1920.

The 1,392 km (865 mi) long Trans-Iranian Railway from Bandar Shah(today Bandar Torkaman ) on the Caspian Sea to Bandar Shahpur (today Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni )on the Persian Gulf was opened during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1939.The railroad was built with rail weighing 33 kilograms per meter (67 lb/yd)and required more than 3000 bridges.There were 126 tunnels in the Zagros mountains,the longest being 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi).Grades averaged 1.5 percent south of Tehran,but then increased to 2.8 percent to cross the 2,220-meter (7,270 ft) pass between Tehran and the Caspian Sea.

After the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941,this Persian Corridor became one of the supply routes for war material for the Soviet Union during World War II,(Railway trend in Iran). The invading British built a 121-kilometre (75 mi) branch line from the 2,953-foot (900 m) bridge over the Karun River in Ahvaz to a new southern port at Khorramshahr on the Arvand Rud river.In 1943 3,473 American soldiers of the Military Railway Service began running trains between the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea using ALCO RS-1 locomotives rebuilt with 3-axle trucks and designated RSD-1.The Americans set up headquarters in Ahvaz, but were unable(wrong)to tolerate the daytime heat,and generally operated the railway at night.The Persian Gulf Command ran trains day and night.

In December 2014,a rail line from Iran opened to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The opening of the line marks the first direct rail link between Iran,Kazakhstan and China and upon completion of the Marmaray rail project direct rail transport between China and Europe(while avoiding Russia)will be possible.

Rolling stock

Iran Railways use a variety of rolling stock for their services.Trains are operated with diesel and electric locomotives. Steam locomotives have been phased out. Diesel is a strategic industry, and by using this heavy oil as a fuel instead of gas for locomotives, the Islamic Republic of Iran has joined the 12 world countries which manufacture this type of engine.


The majority of transportation in Iran is road-based.The government plans to transport 3.5% of the passenger volume and 8.5% of the freight volume by rail. Extensive electrification is planned.The railway network expands by about 500 km per year according to the Ministry of R&T.According to plan,Iran’s railway lines are to reach 15,000 kilometres by 2015 and 25,000 kilometres by the year 2025.The State Railways Company has 300 locomotives with an average lifespan of 40 years.The Islamic Republic of Iran Railways,the Iran Power Plant Projects Management(Mapna)and Germany’s Siemens have signed a contract for 150 Iran Runner locomotives for passenger trains.Siemens is committed to exporting to Iran some 30 locomotives in the first phase and manufacture another 120 using domestic capacities and expertise over the next 6 years(2007).MLC(Mapna Locomotive Engineering and Manufacturing Company)is the manufacturing company responsible for this production.Another locomotive manufacturer in Iran is Wagon Pars which builds AD43C locomotives in partnership with Iranian power plant maker DESA diesel. In 2009,€17 billion in foreign investment in rail industry have been secured,according to the Ministry of Road and Transportation of Iran.

Network and corridors

The railway network converges on Tehran. The Iranian cities of Isfahan and Shiraz were linked to Tehran in 2009. Further extension of this line to Bushehr and Bandar Abbas is planned. Furthermore, the construction of Chabahar-Zahedan-Mashhad railway, extending from southeast to northeast of the country to the length of 1,350 kilometres, started in 2010 with 3 billion euro credit.The western railway extension links to Turkey at the Rāzī – Kapıköy border.A northern connection to Azerbaijan,the Caucasus,and Russia has a bogie-changing station at the border at Jolfa. The southern routes connect Tehran to the Persian Gulf ports of Bandar Imam and Bandar Abbas. A line to the Caspian Sea ends at the terminal of Amir Abad and at Bandar Torkaman,and is part of a North-South corridor to Russia and Scandinavia.The north-east corridor connects Mashhad and continues further to the bogie-changing station at Sarakhs .for the landlocked countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan,and Kazakhstan;this line provides access to the sea.A recent connection from Mashhad to Bafq has significantly shortened access to the port city of Bandar Abbas.Tehran -Mashhad with a length of 900 kilometres, Tehran-Qom-Isfahan with a length of 410 kilometres(under constructions),Qazvin-Rasht-Anzali-Astara with a length of 370 kilometres will all be built with help from China at a cost of $12 billion.In total,Iran has signed a number of contracts with China for the development of 5,000 kilometres of railway lines.

North-South Railway

The North-South railway is complete between Qazvin and Bandar Abbas;the line was expected to be completed as far as Azerbaijan by the end of 2016. Qazvin to Astara is the missing link in North-South Transportation Corridor,which links India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Finland. Qazvin Rasht railway completed in 2018 and Rasht Astara railway needs another four years to be completed.

Links to Azerbaijan and Armenia

Iran’s first rail link to the outside world appeared simultaneously with the beginning of the country’s railway system,as Iran’s first major railway(1916)connected Tabriz with Jolfa on the border with the Russian Empire. The link continued its importance throughout the USSR era;Iran and the USSR signed an agreement on cross-border rail transport in 1940,and amended it in 1958.It is reported that during the late-Soviet era, some 350 railcars crossed the border at Jolfa daily,with the annual amount of cross-border freight reaching 3.5 million tons.However,after the breakup of the USSR and the closing of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan the Jolfa connection became a dead end,as it only links Iran with the isolated Nakhichevan exclave of the Republic of Azerbaijan.In 2007,Iranian Railways Azerbaijan State Railway and Russian Railways agreed on implementing the project to build a new line between Qazvin, Rasht, Astara, Iran and Astara, Azerbaijan.In April 2017,Russia and India celebrated 70 years of diplomatic relations and vowed to complete the North-South Transportation Corridor(NSTC)with the help of Iran.the NSTC reduces time and cost of travel by 30-40 %.There is presently no direct railway connection between Iran and Armenia,even though the two countries share a border.In 2009,Iran and Armenia agreed to build a railway linking Armenia with Iran’s Persian Gulf ports.

Links to Central Asia

In 1996, Mashhad – Sarakhs extension connected Iran to Turkmenistan,as part of the Silk Road railway to link to the landlocked Central Asian Countries.Former states of the Soviet Union have railways using a 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in) Russian gauge,thus the Iranian Railways maintain break-of-gauge services at borders to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan,and beyond brief wide-track rail segments to the border crossing.The Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway link is a part of the North-South Transport Corridor and is a 677 km (421 mi)long railway line connecting the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with Iran and the Persian Gulf. It will link Uzen in Kazakhstan with Bereket – Etrek in Turkmenistan and end at Gorgan in Iran’s Golestan province.In Iran,the railway will be linked to national network making its way to the ports of the Persian Gulf.The project is estimated to cost 620 million dollars  which is being jointly funded by the governments of Kazakhstan,Turkmenistan and Iran.

Links to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan

Feasibility studies were started on Khorramshahr – Basra and Kermanshah – Baghdad links with Iraq As of 2014 the Iranian line to Khorramshahr was finished but construction had not started on the track from the Iraqi border to Basra.In 2017,the West Corridor was expanded from Arak to Malayer and Kermanshah. The Iranian government eyes on expanding the network further to Khosravi (Iran-Iraq)border by 2018.Mashhad – Khvaf-Afghanistan’s Border-Islam Qala railway is being constructed by an Iranian firm,with funding from the Afghan government,but the section in Afghanistan remains incomplete.

Link to Turkey, and International Standard Gauge route to Europe

In 1977, the Iranian railways linked to the western railway system at the Turkish border. The route to the west into Turkey terminates at Van with a 90 km (56 mi)train ferry for both freight wagons and international passenger traffic (baggage car only)across Lake Van,which is at an altitude of 1,650 m (5,413 ft), to Tatvan where it joins the Turkish standard-gauge network.

Link to Pakistan

The construction of the railway from Bam to Zahedan was completed in early 2009 connecting Tehran to Pakistan border with an opening ceremony on 19 July 2009.However international container traffic commenced operations on 14 August 2009 with transshipment(or transloading)between 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) and 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 instandard gauge wagons in the Gulf ,Western Texas and Pacific Railway Zahedan Exchange Yard on the bypass line.The freight traffic was discontinued however after the initial trial trains and was only revived in 2015.Iranian Railways have been trying to persuade Pakistan Railways to convert its route to Quetta to standard gauge,in order to facilitate the flow of international traffic to Europe. Pakistan responded in 2006 with a statement that it is to convert its network to standard gauge,and would plan a link with the standard gauge system of China.A through passenger service is being considered to supplement the occasional Quetta -Zahedan service,itself a poor shadow of the former Pakistan-Iran Taftan Express.



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