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Travelling by train is a not an expensive way to travel in Iran, many of whom approach their rare rail trips with some excitement.

Iran’s first line was the trans-Iranian railway, built in the 1930s to connect the Caspian Sea at Bandar-e Torkaman with the Persian Gulf at Bandar-e Imam Khomeini. One of the main routs is among them is the track between Esfahan and Shiraz, which its way through the Spartan mountainscapes of the Zagros as it links these two historic cities.

The line is part of an amazing program to expand Iran’s rail network. Recently completed lines include Qazvin to Astara via Rasht and Mashhad to Bafq. The long way of Bam to Zahedan is set to open late 2008, and Raja Trains, the national rail network, include Arak to Kermanshah and Khoramshahr to Basra, in Iraq.

Tehran is the main hub and most services begin or end in the capital. There is at least one daily service to Mashhad, Esfahan, Tabriz, Bandar Abbas and Kerman. Trains usually depart on time, but departure and arrival times for stops en route are often in the middle of the night. For the latest routes and prices, see www.rajatrains.com.

The average age of passenger carriages is 26 years but they’re still fairly comfortable, useful and reasonably fast and always  goof price. For overnight trips a 1st-class sleeper is a really good.

On most 1st-class services meals are served in your compartment and aren’t too bad. Long-distance trains also have a restaurant car, and iced water is available. Security is better than in most other countries in the region.