Interfax News Agency
Aug 1 2008

A railroad connecting Iran and Armenia will be constructed regardless
of whether the Abkhaz stretch of the Georgian railroad will be opened,
Armenian Transportation and Communications Minister Gurgen Sarkisian
said at a press conference on Friday.

"We are not going to wait for anyone and will start building,"
Sarkisian said.

Three optional projects for building the railroad to Iran are under
consideration now, and "there are no other problems but financing,"
Sarkisian said.

The cost of the construction will depend on the length of the railroad.

According to preliminary estimates, the most preferred option is the
construction of a railroad starting from the station of Gagarin and
passing through Gavar, Martuni, and Jermuk. In this case, its length
will be 397 kilometers. "This is the shortest and therefore the most
economically profitable direction," he said.

Eighty kilometers of this railroad should run through Iran.

Two other optional routes, the first one starting from the station
Yeraskh and the second from Vardenis, would be 443 and 449 kilometers
long respectively.

In any case, the project envisions the construction of an absolutely
new railroad, Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian had said earlier that the project was evaluated at $1.5
billion to $2 billion. In addition to Armenia, Iran and Russia also
expressed its desire to take part in the project.

Armenia currently has railroad services only with Georgia. The
commissioning of the Abkhaz stretch of the Georgian railroad should
help Armenia arrange cargo rail transportation to Russia. A railroad
connecting Armenia with Iran would turn Armenia into a transit country
in Iran's trade with Russia and other countries.