SECTIONS of new line to be built in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran will open up a north-south rail corridor parallel to the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea.

An agreement to implement the 650 km project was signed by the presidents of the three countries at the second Caspian summit held in Tehran on October 16. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan said the railway would 'facilitate relations' between the Central Asian states and their neighbouring countries in the Persian Gulf region.

The project will see a railway built south from Uzen in Kazakhstan to Kizylgaia in Turkmenistan, from where construction is already in hand on a line to Kazandzhik and Etrek close to the Iranian border. From here a 90 km section will be built to reach the Iranian network at Gorgan. Through shipments will be possible from Russia to the Persian Gulf, although there will be a break of gauge at the Turkmen-Iranian border. Traffic is expected to reach 3 to 5 million tonnes a year soon after completion, rising later to 10 to 12 million tonnes.