Transport in Iran

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Major routes and railways of Iran. Tehran is the hub of Iran's transport and communication system.

Transport in Iran is inexpensive because of the government's subsidization of the price of gasoline. The downside is a huge draw on government coffers, economic inefficiency because of highly wasteful consumption patterns, contraband with neighboring countries and air pollution. In 2008, more than one million people worked in the transportation sector, accounting for 9% of GDP.[1]

Iran has a long paved road system linking most of its towns and all of its cities. In 2011 the country had 173,000 kilometres (107,000 mi) of roads, of which 73% were paved.[2] In 2008 there were nearly 100 passenger cars for every 1,000 inhabitants.[3]

Trains operated on 11,106 km (6,942 mi) of railroad track.[4] The country’s major port of entry is Bandar-Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz. After arriving in Iran, imported goods are distributed throughout the country by trucks and freight trains. The Tehran-Bandar-Abbas railroad, opened in 1995, connects Bandar-Abbas to the railroad system of Central Asia via Tehran andc Mashhad. Other major ports include Bandar e-Anzali and Bandar e-Torkeman on the Caspian Sea and Khorramshahr and Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni on the Persian Gulf.

Dozens of cities have airports that serve passenger and cargo planes. Iran Air, the national airline, was founded in 1962 and operates domestic and international flights. All large cities have mass transit systems using buses, and several private companies provide bus service between cities. Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Tabriz, Ahwaz and Esfahan are in the process of constructing underground mass transit rail lines.

Ministry of Road and Transportation

The Ministry of Roads and Transportation is in charge of studying and deciding pricing policy of the transportation; as well as issuing licenses for the establishment of transportation firms. In addition, the Ministry is in charge of implementing comprehensive and integrated transportation policies in Iran.


Railway system map (09-2006)
  • Total: 11,106 km[4]
    • Standard gauge: 8,273 km of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge (146 km electrified) (2006)
    • Broad gauge: 94 km of 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) gauge (connected to Pakistan Railways)

Electrified railway is 146 km from Tabriz to Jolfa and the tender for electrification of Tehran- Mashhad has been finished according to Railway electrification in Iran. Note: Broad-gauge track is employed at the borders with Azerbaijan Republic and Turkmenistan which have 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in) broad gauge rail systems; 41 km of the standard gauge, electrified track is in suburban service at Tehran (2007).

The majority of transportation in Iran is road-based. The government plans to transport 3.5% of the passenger volume and 8.5% of the freight volume by rail. Extensive electrification is planned. The railway network expands by about 500 km per year according to the Ministry of R&T.

Railway links with adjacent countries

In December, 2014 a rail line from Iran opened to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The opening of the line marks the first direct rail link between Iran, Kazakhstan and China and upon completion of the Marmaray rail project direct rail transport between China and Europe (while avoiding Russia) will be possible.[5][6]

Couplings, Brakes and Electrification


Along with extension work on the Tehran Metro, six other metro projects are being built. In total, 172 extra kilometers will be built in Tehran between now and 2012 and over 380 kilometers in the other cities. All these work sites are going at present (2008).[8]

Roadways and automobiles

Tehran-Karaj road link
  • Total: 172,927 km (2006)[9]
  • Paved: 125,908 km (includes 1,429 km of expressways)
  • Unpaved: 47,019 km

Note: There were more than 11 million vehicles in Iran by 2010 mostly manufactured or assembled locally.[3] As of 2015, 34,000 km of roads provided essential corridors of transportation, while 45,000 km of major roads and 100,000 km of roads connecting villages and rural areas have seen no maintenance and upkeep practices (worth a total of $57 billion).[10]

Road accidents

Transportation in Iran is inexpensive because of the government's subsidization of gasoline

Iran ranks 23d worldwide in traffic deaths per 100,000 population per year, with a rate of 24.3, half the rate of the worst country, Eritrea. Iran ranks first worldwide in terms of having the largest number of road accidents with 38,000 deaths and injuries per year. Other sources place the total number of fatalities at 100,000 over the past 6 years or 20,000 per year on average (2008).[1][11]

Transport officials say 46.8 percent of car accidents take place in cities, 21.5 percent outside, 19.5 percent on rural routes, 4.2 percent on urban highways and 4.2 percent on suburban highways.[12]

The high death tolls in car accidents are blamed on high speed, unsafe vehicles, widespread disregard of traffic laws and inadequate emergency services.[13]

Motorcycles account for 50 percent of sound pollution in Tehran and 40-45 percent of accidents.[14]


850 km (on Karun River; additional service on Lake Urmia) (2006)[9]

Note: the Shatt al-Arab is usually navigable by maritime traffic for about 130 km; channel has been dredged to 3 m and is in use.


  • Condensate 7 km; condensate/gas 12 km; gas 19,246 km; liquid petroleum gas 570 km; oil 7,018 km; refined products 7,936 km (2008)[9]
  • Iran is currently undergoing negotiations with neighboring Pakistan for the construction of an oil and gas pipeline to that country to help integrate their respective economies and solve the energy shortage being faced by Pakistan.

Ports and harbors

As at 2015, the Kharg oil terminal is handling about 90% of Iran's crude exports.

The capacity of container loading and unloading in the country’s ports is currently at 4.4 million which will increase to 7 million by the end of 2015. Port capacity will increase to 200 million tons in 2015 from 150 million tons in 2010.[15]

  • All ports: Abadan (largely destroyed in fighting during 1980-88 war), Ahvaz, Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e Anzali (Caspian sea), Bushehr, Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni, Bandar-e Lengeh, Bandar-e Mahshahr, Bandar-e Torkaman (Caspian sea), Chabahar (Bandar-e Beheshti), Kharg island, Lavan island, Sirri island, Khorramshahr (limited operation since November 1992), Noshahr (Caspian sea), Arvand Kenar.
    • Main: Assaluyeh, Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e Eman Khomeyni[9] Bandar Abbas is in southern Iran and handles 90% of the country's container throughput.[16]
    • Major Export Terminals (loading capacity): Kharg Island 5,000,000 bbl/d (790,000 m3/d), Lavan Island 200,000 bbl/d (32,000 m3/d), Neka (Caspian sea) 50,000 bbl/d (7,900 m3/d), Assaluyeh 250,000 bbl/d (40,000 m3/d) gas liquids, Kish Island, Abadan (aka Bandar-e Eman Khomeyni) and Bandar Mahshahr (latter 2 are used mostly by NPC for petrochemicals export).[17]
      • Major Oil/Gas Ports:[17]
        • Kharg Island: is the largest and main export terminal in Iran. Roughly 90% of Iran's exports are sent via Kharg. Kharg's loading system has a capacity of 5.0 million bbl/d. The terminal processes all onshore production (the Iranian Heavy and Iranian Light Blends) and offshore production from the Froozan field (the Froozan Blend). The Kharg terminal includes the main T-jetty, the Sea Island that is located on the west side of Kharg, and the Dariush terminal to the south. Kharg Island relies on storage to ensure even operations, and its current storage capacity is expected to increase to 28 million barrels of oil in 2014.[18]
        • Lavan Island, mostly handles exports of the Lavan Blend sourced from offshore fields. Lavan is Iran's highest-quality export grade and one of Iran's smallest streams. Lavan's production averaged less than 100,000 bbl/d in 2013, but the Lavan facilities have the capacity to process 200,000 bbl/d of crude oil. Lavan has a two-berth jetty, which can accommodate vessels up to 250,000 deadweight tons. Lavan's storage capacity is 5.5 million barrels.[18]
        • Sirri Island: serves as a loading port for the Sirri Blend that is produced in the offshore fields of the same name. The Sirri terminal includes a loading platform equipped with four loading arms that can load tankers from 80,000 to 330,000 deadweight tons. Its storage capacity is 4.5 million barrels.[18]
        • Ras Bahregan.[18]

Merchant marine

The International Maritime Organization has 140 member states with Iran ranking among the top 20
  • Total: 76 (2013)[19]
  • By type: bulk carrier 8, cargo 51, chemical tanker 3, container 4, liquefied gas 1, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 2, refrigerated cargo 2, roll on/roll off 2
  • Foreign-owned: 2 (UAE 2)
  • Registered in other countries: 71 (Barbados 5, Cyprus 10, Hong Kong 3, Malta 48, Panama 5) (2010) [19]
  • Shipping freight (important for liquid natural gas (LNG) exports) will grow by an average of 5.3 percent a year in the 2009-2013.[20]

Over the next two decades, Iran would need 500 new ships, including 120 oil tankers, 40 liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers and over 300 commercial vessels.[21]

Airports and airlines

Iran’s airports are improving their international connections, and Arak Airport in Markazi province has recently begun to operate international flights, making a total of five such airports in the country, in addition to ten local airports.[22] In May 2007 international flights into the capital, Tehran, were moved to the Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA), just outside the city because of capacity constraints at the existing central Mehrabad Airport.

  • Airports: 319 (2013)[19]
  • There are 54 "major" airports in Iran (2008): 8 international, 21 air border, and 25 domestic.[23]
  • Number of flights from airports nationwide reached 31,088 in a month (October 20-November 20, 2008): 10,510 domestic, 4,229 international and 15,404 transit.[24]
  • Airport capacity for departures and arrivals: 73 million persons (2011)[25]
  • Number of passengers departing and arriving at airports: 40.1 million persons (2011)[25]
  • Share of non-public sector in domestic flights: 60% (2011)[25]
  • Share of non-public sector in international flights: 58.7% (2011)[25]

National airline:

Airports - with paved runways

Total: 140 (2013)[19]

over 3,047 m: 42
2,438 to 3,047 m: 29
1,524 to 2,437 m: 26
914 to 1,523 m: 36
under 914 m: 7 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

Total: 179 (2013)[19]

over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 135
under 914 m: 32 (2013)


Total: 26 (2013)[19]

Transit statistics

Iran's non-oil foreign trade (2011).


  • In 2011, some 27 million travelers and businessmen passed custom departments.[26]
  • Over five million passengers have been transported via border points mainly Mehran and Bazargan.
  • In 2002, about 70% of visitors arrived by land, about 29% by air and less than 1% by sea[22]


  • In 2011, cargos and commodities from 100 countries have been transited across Iran. Over 10.5 million tons of oil products and non-oil commodities were transited via land (91% via road and 9% via railroad) and marine borders.[26]
  • In 2010, 10 million tons of commodities from 110 countries, worth $31.5 billion, transited through Iran for 82 destinations.[27][28]
  • In 2009, the value of goods transited was about $25 billion. This figure constitutes seven percent of the GDP.[29]
  • From March 22, 2009 until September 22, 2009 over 3 million tons of goods worth some $11.3 billion were transited through Iran. Regarding the countries of origin, China was first in terms of volume, Turkmenistan ranked second, Uzbekistan came third, Turkey fourth and UAE fifth. Among the destinations, Afghanistan was first, Iraq second, Azerbaijan third, UAE fourth and Turkmenistan ranked fifth.[30]
  • Some 33 million tons of goods and 29 million passengers are transported annually by the rail transportation network, accounting for 9 percent and 11 percent of the whole transportations in the country (2011).[31]
  • Per capita parcel post for each Iranian stands at 15 per annum (2008).[32]
  • One million tons of commodities, fuel and barter have been transited abroad per month (2008).[33]
    • Fuel is transported in Iran by road tankers, tank wagons, tanker ships as well as through pipelines. Nearly 10,000 tankers from 400 private sector companies transport fuel by road. In 2013, nearly 87 billion liters of fuel were transported by Iranian tankers. Iran’s tank wagons and ships transported 3 billion liters and 8 billion liters of fuel, respectively.[34]
    • 3.498 million tons of non-oil commodities were transited abroad via Iran during March 20-November 20, 2008 (79% of the commodities were transited by road).[35]

Mode of transport

  • More than 90 percent of the country’s imports and exports, particularly in the fisheries and oil sectors, are undertaken through the sea (2009).[36]
  • In 2008, 84% of the transited goods through Iran were transported through roads while the rest was transported via railroad.[3]

Port of entry

  • In 2011, Bandar Abbas was the country’s most active border in terms of transit (37 percent), followed by Parvizkhan (17 percent), Bazargan (9 percent) and Bashmaq (7 percent).[26]
  • In 2008, some 24 border crossings except Kileh in Sardasht (West Azarbaijan) and Yazdan in Southern Khorasan were active nationwide. Bandar Abbas, contributing 40.8% of transit operations, was considered the most dynamic in terms of transiting cargo. It was followed by Bazargan (16.6 percent), Sarakhs (14.1 percent), Bandar Anzali (9.2 percent) and Pileh-Savar (3.9 percent).[3]


  • Every ton of transit cargo earns $150 for the country and creates 40 jobs.[3] Iran will earn a revenue of USD 12 billion when the volume of goods transported through the country reaches 40 million tons annually.[27]


In September 2009, Iran formally joined the Transport Corridor Europe – Caucasus – Asia (TRACECA) programme, also known as the "new Silk Road." TRACECA was founded in 1998 with the aim of promoting economic relations, trade and transport communications between Europe, the Caucasus and Asia. This programme consists of the EU and 14 member states (including Iran) from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Iran’s strategic location means that it is a key transport corridor between Europe and Central Asia.

In August 2010, Iran declared that it "did not sign on to TRACECA project" and said it has been fostering improved transport links through a series of bilateral agreements with neighboring states instead.[37] According to Iran's first Vice-President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi "If all the potential of the country's transit sector is tapped, it can bring in as much revenues as [the] oil [industry]". He also announced that Iran will join China and Europe by rail in the near future.[38]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1] Archived June 3, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 [2] Archived June 18, 2009 at the Wayback Machine Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Islamic Republic Of Iran Railways :: راه آهن جمهوري اسلامي ايران". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran Railway to Open Today, by Onur Uysal,
  7. [3] Archived June 22, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "No Operation". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 "CIA - The World Factbook". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. [4] Archived June 29, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Iran Daily - Domestic Economy - 07/27/08 Archived June 3, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Motorcycles Account for 30% of Air Pollution in Tehran". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "No. 3855 | Domestic Economy | Page 4". Irandaily. Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Iran - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 US Energy Information Agency  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 "CIA Factbook". 09-12-2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. [5] Archived June 21, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  21. [6] Archived September 26, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Iran Travel And Tourism Forecast", Economist Intelligence Unit, August 18, 2008 |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. [7] Archived June 3, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  24. "وب سایتهای ایرنا - Irna". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2
  27. 27.0 27.1 "PressTV - 'Iran cargo transit revenue to hit $12 bn'". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "'Iran's trade grows despite sanctions'". PressTV. 2011-05-01. Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "No. 3853 | Domestic Economy | Page 4". Irandaily. Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Transit of goods through Iran soars". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Iran to extend rail network to 15,000 kilometers by 2015". Tehran Times. Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. [8] Archived June 3, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  33. "Rise in transit of commodities via Iran - Irna". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "وب سایتهای ایرنا - Irna". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. [9] Archived May 31, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  37. "No Operation". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. "No Operation". Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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