Iran launched a train service to Turkey’s Van after a hiatus of about three years with officials expressing hope that it would help increase the number of tourists traveling on either side of the border.
The service that starts from Iran’s northwestern city of Tabriz was halted in 2016 when a cargo train which was en route to Tabriz was derailed in eastern Turkey near the border with Iran as a result of a bomb attack.
The attack – which Turkish officials blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – did not cause any fatalities, but left two Turkish railway guards lightly injured. The train was carrying iron, tobacco, and MDF to Iran.
The trip to Van would leave once a week on Monday evening and would return the next day, said Shapour Arsalani, the director general of Iran’s Azarbaijan Railway Network.
Arsalani added that the train has a passenger capacity of 250 which could be increased upon stronger trip demand.
The official emphasized that an agreement had been reached with Turkey to advertise about the train service to Tabriz in Van which is located about one hour’s drive from Iran’s border.
This, he added, would be in line with Iran’s efforts to encourage stronger tourist visits to the northwestern Iranian city, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported.
The train service to Van is considered to provide a relative advantage for Iran’s trade activities with Turkey as well as the exchange of tourists with the country.
Turkey banned travels of passenger trains in the country’s east and southeast in 2015 when clashes between the army and the PKK terrorists intensified. Freight trains, however, were allowed to pass on a limited basis.
Official figures released by Turkish authorities show that Iran currently provides the highest number of tourists to the country. In 2017, a staggering figure of 2.5 million Iranians travelled to Turkey – a figure that was 50 percent higher than the previous year. Over the past few months from the start of 2018, above 850,000 Iranians are believed to have travelled to the country’s northwestern neighbor – again a record figure.