Italian transport operator Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) to design and build two high-speed rail lines in Iran.

Including approximately $5.65bn in export credits from Italy to RAI, the deal will also provide a complete training programme for Iranian rail staff.

Of the two high-speed rail lines, one will link Tehran and to the city of Hamadan, while the other will connect the industrial cities of Arak and Qom.

"The Iranian Republic intends to strengthen the country’s infrastructure."

Iran Minister of Transport Abbas Akhoundi said: "We have held talks with China and some European countries for launching high-speed rail on affordable budget; I hope the talks will yield positive results."

It is expected that the new MoU will help resume commercial relations between RAI and FS, which were broken off after the imposition of UN Security Council sanctions in 2006.

The agreement is part of Iran’s aim to expand its nationwide rail network from the existing 15,000km to 25,000km by 2025, of which 7,500km is already under construction.

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Iran President Hassan Rouhani said: "The Iranian Republic intends to strengthen the country’s infrastructure, and is considering 10,000km of railways, thousands of kilometres of motorways, as well as ports and airports, and is in favour of partnerships between the public and private sectors, so the market is opening."

As part of the deal, FS will be responsible for the planning and construction of a high-speed rail corridor between Tehran, Qom and Isfahan.

It is reported by that the initial agreement also includes electrifying the rail link between Tehran and Tabriz, as well as upgrading the road between Bandar Imam Khomeini in the Persian Gulf and the Bazargan border with Turkey.

Last October, Iran announced plans to invest $25bn over the next ten years in the modernisation and expansion of its railway network.

The upgrade would support the efforts of the country to align with the regional rail networks in the Persian Gulf and the subcontinent to Central Asia.