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Iran: Railroads
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Transportation and Telecommunications > Railroads


Foreign currency shortages, the financial burdens of war, and trade sanctions made it impossible for Iran to expand its railroads adequately in the 1980s, but railroad investment began to increase in the 1990s. In 2006 Iran had 8,367 kilometers of rail lines in good condition, compared with 5,800 kilometers in 1979. The five main lines of the system, most of which is single-track, radiate from Tehran: one runs south to Khorramshahr and Abadan at the head of the Persian Gulf; a second runs south to the Strait of Hormuz at Bandar-e Abbas; a third runs southeast to Kerman (with a route under construction in 2005 farther east to Zahedan, which was already connected to Pakistan’s rail system); a fourth runs east to Mashhad and connects with the Central Asian rail system on the Turkmenistan border, and includes a spur to the east side of the Caspian Sea; and the fifth runs northwest to Tabriz and the border with Turkey, where it connects to the Turkish State Railroad and includes a spur to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan enclave. Major rail lines connect the eastern city of Mashhad to the northwestern city of Tabriz and connect the Caspian Sea port of Bandar-e Torkaman to the Persian Gulf port of Bandar-e Khomeini.

Between 1991 and 2003, the number of rail passengers increased from 8 million to 16 million annually. The fourth economic development plan calls for further expansion to 34 million passengers, including extensive purchase of new rail cars. The annual volume of freight transported by rail increased significantly from 1991 to 2006, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the country’s domestic freight shipments. Oil and mineral products accounted for about 61 percent of the total net freight transported; industrial materials and products were next with an 18 percent share. The volume of industrial materials and products transported by rail increased by 81 percent from 1991 to 2003. The cost of railroad transportation to passengers and businesses was less than that of bus and truck transportation. As a result, railroads were overused for some purposes, placing a financial burden on the government. To accommodate increased demand, in the early 2000s experts estimated that Iran needed 30,000 to 50,000 kilometers of railroads.

In 2005 the new Friendship Line reportedly was opened, providing access for Turkey and the Central Asian countries to Iran’s southern coast. This 1,000-kilometer railroad links northeastern Iran to the south, bypassing Tehran and saving 800 kilometers. The Friendship Line complements an existing line that had linked Turkmenistan to Iran’s main rail system. These two lines, linking Iran’s northeast to its southeast, can be used by passengers and the manufacturing, mining, and steel industries. In 2006 a new rail line was under construction between Khaf in northeastern Iran and Herat in Afghanistan. Lines connecting Zahedan and Esfahan with Shiraz were scheduled for completion in 2007. A new rail connection with Armenia was in the planning stage. Construction of an ambitious North–South Corridor, linking Russia to India via Iran, was delayed by Iran’s nuclear controversy.

Data as of 2008

Last Updated: January 2008

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

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