THIS MONTH is due to see the publication of proposals for a joint venture which will finance and build a 511 km railway along Iran's Caspian Sea coast, as part of the North-South rail corridor being promoted by Russian Railways.

The scheme is being developed by a working group set up in May, when a tripartite protocol was signed in Moscow by RZD President Gennady Fadeev, Iranian Deputy Transport Minister Saidnejad Mohammad and the President of Azerbaijan State Railway Arif Askerov. July 1 has been set as the deadline to agree an organisational structure and the capital stakes in the joint venture. Total cost is put at US$170m.

The line would start from the AZR terminus at Astara near the Azerbaijan/Iran border and follow the coast to the port of Bandar-e-Anzali, turning south to the city of Resht before joining RAI's present Tehran - Tabriz main line at Qazvin.

The new route is intended to permit the resumption of rail traffic between Russia and Iran which was broken 14 years ago when Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent. At present North-South corridor traffic moves by train ferry between Olya and Bandar-e-Torkaman. RZD plans to run a trial Moscow - Bandar Abbas - Madras container movement in August to demonstrate the corridor's potential. Fadeev believes the Baltic - Gulf corridor could soon be handling 20 million tonnes a year.

  • RZD confirmed on June 9 that it was investing 500m roubles to develop a 2·8 km rail link to the Baltic port of Ust-Luga, which is expected to handle 8 million tonnes of freight in 2005.