Pakistan and Turkey have agreed to proceed with the $20bn freight railway to link the two countries, trials of which were carried out in August last year.

The 6,566km of rail track is planned to run from Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad to the Turkish city of Istanbul through the Iranian capital of Tehran.

The five-year project is expected to cut the Islamabad-Istanbul time travel from 11 days to nearly four days, resulting in faster and cheaper cargo transportation from Pakistan to Turkey, and ultimately to the rest of Europe.

Of the total track length, 1,990km would be built in Pakistan, 2,570km in Iran and 2,006km in Turkey.

The project is expected to increase Pakistan’s trade with Turkey and Iran by 50% from an average of $1bn.

The rail route has also been planned to run passenger services in the future to boost tourism.