SYRIAN Transport Minister Makram Obeid joined celebrations in Aleppo on March 10 to inaugurate a through passenger service between the city and the Iranian capital Tehran. Reinstatement of the international service was announced last year following Syria’s decision to reopen its borders with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

From Aleppo the train runs north into Turkey and then heads east via the Lake Van train ferry to reach the Iranian border at Razi. Journey time for the 2500 km Aleppo - Tehran trip is 60h. CFS expects the weekly service to carry 250000 passengers a year, including many Shi’ite Muslims from Iran visiting holy sites around Damascus.

A month before the reopening, Obeid met his Iranian counterpart Dr Rahman Dadman to look at ways of improving rail links between the two countries. CFS plans to invest US$500m in modernising its existing trunk lines, including the route from Aleppo to the port of Latakia. RAI is due to start work later this year on a 255 km ’western railway’ from Tehran to Bakhtaran (formerly Kermanshah), which will take four years to build at a cost of 800m riyals. In the longer term it would be extended via Eslamabad-e-Garb to the Iraqi border at Khosrawi to complete a Tehran - Baghdad corridor.