ASIA: Construction of a railway bridge over the River Astarachay which forms the border between the two similarly-named towns of Astara in Azerbaijan and Iran was formally launched with a groundbreaking ceremony on April 20.

Guests at the event included the heads of the two national railways and the ministers who co-chair the Azerbaijan-Iran Joint Commission for Economic, Trade & Humanitarian Co-operation.

The 82·5 m bridge is to be funded and built jointly by the two countries under the terms of an inter-governmental agreement, with completion scheduled for the end of 2016. Around 8·3 km of new track will be laid to extend the existing 1 520 mm gauge Azeri railway into Iran, where there will be a further 1·7 km of line.

The planned completion of a 164 km extension of Iran’s 1435 mm gauge rail network from Rasht to Astara would complete a north–south rail corridor along the western side of the Caspian Sea, enabling through rail services to link Iran’s ocean ports to Russia with a break of gauge at the Iran-Azerbaijan border.