LAHORE - The Pakistan Railways has “quietly” suspended operation of Pak-Iran freight service due to security issues and lack of trade activities between the two countries, official sources have told The Nation.

Much media hype had been created when the freight service between the two countries had been resumed in January this year. It had resumed service after a gap of five years.

Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik had inaugurated the service between Quetta and Zahidan — Iran’s border city.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique had termed it a “revolutionary step”.

“The train could not continue its operation even for two months. Railways management quietly closed it,” said an official of the department. He said lack of trade activities and security issues at around 700km long route were the main reasons behind the suspension of the service.

The train was supposed to operate once in a week between Quetta and Zahidan with gradual increase in its operation.

“It was not viable for the Railways which already striving hard to overcome its annual deficit of around Rs 25 billion. The train service between the two countries is useless until the establishment of peace and order in Balochistan,” he added.

The minister at the time of inauguration had announced that the PR was also ready to run ECO train but it was waiting Turkey’s response in this regard.

Gul Train or ECO Train is a proposed international freight train project between Islamabad and Istanbul via Tehran.

The suspension of Pak-Iran Train, however, put a question mark on the proposed launch of ECO Train.

Another official informed that the freight train service was at peak between Quetta (Balochistan capital) and Zahidan (the capital city of Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran) in 2005-06 but it almost abandoned in 2010 due to poor infrastructure of Railways at around 600km long route from Quetta to Taftan — the starting point of Iran border — and law and order situation in Balochistan.

He said that annually trade through train between the two countries was 8,000 bogies per year in 2004-05 but it came down at mere 100 bogies in year 2010.

The PR had announced to start the maintenance work on the track and also announced special hardship allowance to the workers.

Pakistan was supposed to export rice and other goods and bring sulfur, charcoal and other chemicals from Iran through the train.

The freight train covers 732km in around 30 hours between Quetta and Zahidan via Sar-i-Ab, Spezand Jn, Wali Khan, Sheikh Wasil, Galangur, Kishingi, Nushki, Ahmedwal, Padag Road, Dalbandin, Yakmach, Nok-Kundi, Alamreg, Tozghi, Kohi-Taftan, Mirjawa and Khan Muhammad Chah.