ATA CEREMONY in Tehran on May 2 the heads of the railways in Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan signed a formal accord to build the Qazvin - Rasht - Astara line as part of the emerging North-South Corridor linking the Gulf with the Baltic Sea.

At a second meeting held in Tehran on May 11-12 the participants agreed to set up a company to manage construction of the line. With initial capital of US$6m, it will be based in Moscow, with affiliates responsible for construction located in Iran and Azerbaijan; the affiliates will hold 51% of the shares and the core company 49%.

Total cost of the project is put at around US$600m. On Iranian territory the 205 km Qazvin - Resht - Bandar Azali section will be built first. This section will have 38 tunnels and 15 stations; there will be 42 km of double track. The 170 km section from Resht to Astara will all be single-track, with provision for a second track to be added later. Five intermediate stations will be needed.

At the border between Iran and Azerbaijan a 9 km section will be built with dual-gauge track, and this will include a 100m bridge over the River Astarachai.

RAI considers the line to have major significance for trade as the border on the line through Jolfa has been closed for some time. Forecasts suggest that over 20 million tonnes of traffic a year would use the line. RZD is ready to finance a feasibility study and to provide tracklaying and other equipment.

CAPTION: Participating in the signing ceremony on May 2 were RAI President Mohammad Saiednejad (left), Azerbaijan Railways President Aref Asgarov (centre) and RZD President Gennady Fadeyev (right) Photos:RZD