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Iran: Transportation
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Non-Oil Industry > Transportation and Communications > Transportation

TRANSPORTATION


The rugged terrain and sheer size of Iran made the expansion of transportation facilities difficult. Emphasis was placed on linking the major population centers and economic centers by rail and road; superimposed on a map, such main arteries would form a "T," with the crossbar extending from the northwestern corner to the northeast along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. The vertical line would run through Tehran down to the Gulf.

In 1925 Iran had only 3,218 kilometers of railroad -- much of it in disrepair, but in 1931 a railroad was built to link the two bodies of water on Iran's northern and southern borders, the port of Bandar-e Shah (known as Bandar-e Torkaman after the Revolution of 1979) on the Caspian Sea near Gorgan was linked by rail to the port of Bandar-e Shahpur (known as Bandar-e Khomeini after the 1979 Revolution) on the southwestern coast, passing through Tehran, and in 1941 the northern regions of Iran were connected by rail from west to east (from Tabriz to Mashhad). This was accomplished with the aid of foreign technicians and engineers. The railroad had expanded southeast from Tabriz to Kerman by 1977, and roads and air travel linked many parts of the country. Roads in good condition in 1941 totaled 22,526 kilometers; by 1984 there were 51,389 kilometers of paved roads. These roads, built primarily for military use, had the effect of stimulating development.

The leg of the "T" from Tehran to the Gulf was the most intensively used transportation corridor, accounting for half of all road traffic and two-thirds of all rail traffic by 1978. Domestic and foreign trade from the Gulf traversed this portion of road. Key ports were connected to each other and to Tehran through the "T" network. Foreign trade came through the Gulf ports of Khorramshahr, Bandar-e Shahpur, Bushehr, and Bandar-e Abbas. Khorramshahr handled trade primarily for the private sector, and Bandar-e Shahpur handled imports for the governments. Other foreign trade traversed the northwestern part of Iran. This area was connected by road and railroad with Turkey and the Soviet Union and with two minor ports on the Caspian Sea.

The transportation system became incapable of meeting trade demands during the oil boom of the mid-1970s. Neither the ports nor the transportation infrastructure leading from the ports could handle the volume of goods. As a consequence, long lines of ships formed, some waiting months to unload and adding more than US$1 billion a year to freight costs. Perishable goods spoiled, and delayed deliveries of durable goods disrupted production and construction schedules. Consequently, the government gave the expansion of port and transportation facilities high priority. By 1976 the 6 major ports of Bandar-e Abbas, Bandar-e Shahpur, Chah Bahar (known as Bandar-e Beheshti after the 1979 Revolution), Bushehr, Abadan, and Khorramshahr had a capacity of 12 million tons, with expansion projects underway. By late 1977, unloading delays were no longer a problem. As a result of war damage, the ports of Abadan and Khorramshahr were closed in 1980, leaving the other four main ports and twelve minor ports in operation.

The construction of fourteen jetties along the Gulf coast was planned in 1986; one of these, at Jask near the Strait of Hormuz, opened in February 1986. Built at a cost of approximately US$20 million, it included a covered warehouse, a passenger terminal building, and a 130- meter-long jetty for the use of small ships up to 2,000 tons. Especially after the Revolution, the government expanded roads as well as port facilities. The total length of roads in 1974 was about 50,000 kilometers, of which 14 percent was hard-surfaced. A major post-1979 increase in road construction helped boost total road length in 1984 to 136,381 kilometers, of which 41 percent was paved. Main or national roads comprised 16,551 kilometers and secondary roads 34,838 kilometers of this total.

Post-Revolution maintenance of roads and railroads suffered, as did road access to the ports. The State Railways Organization extended Iran's 4,567 kilometers of railroad track by the completion in 1987 of approximately 130 kilometers of electrified track in the north between Tabriz and Jolfa for imports from the Soviet Union. An additional 1,300 kilometers were scheduled to be added to the network by 1989, although war conditions made it unlikely that this goal would be realized. Other legs were planned between Mashhad in the northeast and the Soviet border at Sarakhs and in the north from Gorgan to Gonbad. A joint economic agreement between Iran and the Soviet Union in August 1987 reportedly called for a railroad route for the export of Soviet goods through Iran to the Gulf. A 560-kilometer extension to the World War II- era railroad linking Iran to Pakistan via Zahedan in southeastern Iran was completed in 1987 to join Zahedan to Kerman and thence to Tehran.

Iran's two principal international airports were located in Tehran (Mehrabad Airport) and Abadan. A new international airport in Esfahan began operations in 1986, and another airport forty kilometers south of Tehran was under construction in 1987. In addition, an international airport was scheduled to be built at Gorgan, east of the Caspian Sea. In developments affecting smaller, national airports, the runway at Kerman was extended in FY 1986. Plans in 1987 called for the airports at Ardabil, Iranshahr, Mashhad, Sari, and Zabol to be lengthened and widened to accommodate larger airplanes and for a new runway to be built at Zahedan.

Data as of December 1987




Last Updated: December 1987


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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