Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 16:37 UK

Pakistan-Turkey rail trial starts


Pakistan has begun its first international freight train service from Islamabad to Istanbul.

The 6,500km (4,040 mile) trial service via the Iranian capital, Tehran, is a pilot project of the regional Economic Co-operation Organisation.

Officials expect it to boost Pakistan's trade with Turkey and Iran - currently estimated at $1bn - by as much as 50%.

There are also hopes the route will eventually provide a link to Europe and Central Asia, and carry passengers.

Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said he hoped the route would one day also provide passenger services and boost tourism, reports said.

The train will pull 20 containers on its maiden journey from Islamabad railway station, delivering 14 to Tehran and six to Istanbul a fortnight after it sets off.

The first journey will also take railway experts from the three countries on board to gauge the performance and check for obstacles over the vast terrain.

Mr Gilani described the beginning as "an epic event", Pakistan's APP news agency reported.

Some operational obstacles also remain to be resolved, and parts of the route need to be upgraded, he added.

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