PLANS to build a north-south rail link along the Caspian Sea coast moved ahead in July, when a trilateral working group met in Tehran to discuss the project.

Experts from the Russian, Azerbaijan and Iranian railways agreed during talks on July 24-27 to set up a joint stock company as a single legal entity to build the 511 km Astara - Rasht - Qazvin line (RG 7.04 p387). The company will have an initial equity of US$6m contributed equally by the three railways, and will be legally established by November 15. The working group will meet in Baku this month to agree where the new company’s headquarters will be located.

The line is expected to complete a missing link in the putative north-south corridor linking northern Europe with southeast Asia, halving the current average journey time of 60 days and cutting transport costs by around 30%. Total cost of the project is currently estimated at US$600m. RAI has committed to completing technical and economic studies for the Rasht - Qazvin line within one month of the protocol signing, enabling the company to undertake feasibility studies for the whole route.