View Full Version : IRAQ | Railways
June 30th, 2005, 08:52 AM
Baghdad to Basra, driving Iraq's train of fear
BAGHDAD, June 30 (AFP) - Iraq's railway system should be an economic locomotive for rebuilding the country, but on a lonely stretch south of Baghdad trains run empty and engineers count on thick plates of steel to stop bullets.
A trip from the capital to southern Basra only costs 1,000 dinars (less than a dollar), but passengers fear it could also cost them their lives and prefer to get on at Hilla, near the ancient city of Babylon about a fifth of the way down the green valley formed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
In between lies what Iraqis call the Triangle of Death and cities like Latifiyah and Mahmudiyah, names that recall fierce firefights between Iraqi and US forces, and insurgents loyal to the former regime of Saddam Hussein.
"Honestly, we're scared because there is nothing to protect us," said Karar Hassan as he manned the controls of a green and yellow locomotive retro-fitted with armor to stop automatic weapons fire, if not rocket propelled grenades.
"The first thing you think about is your family, then you have to think about the passengers and the families that you have on board."
In fact, the train left Bagdad essentially empty, though a platoon of about 10 Iraqi policemen had the run of four passenger wagons, in case of an attack.
"Recently some of our engineers were fired on while doing their job," chief mechanical engineer Mohammed Abdullah told AFP.
A pilot locomotive had run down the track about an hour earlier to scout for explosives and insurgents, but they sometimes slip back in afterwards to strike their target.
Just before Latifiyah, two thick columns of black smoke billowed on the left side of the track, marking the start of a virtual no-man's land comprised of srub brush and palm groves that provide cover for snipers.
Few roads run near the railroad here and in case of an attack help can only come by rail or by air, though this time it was just an oil pipeline that had been sabotaged.
"This area is not safe, we read the Koran all the time and we pray to God to save us and the passengers" who get on in Hilla, Diwaniyah or Nasiriyah, Hassan said.
Taped above the windshield were images of the late Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the revered seventh-century Shiite imam Ali.
Hassan pointed to a wrecked train on a siding to the right.
"As you can see there are a number of freight cars that were bombed" and now sat empty, several bearing scars left by by homemade bombs or rockets.
Although the track is supposed to allow speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph), the train gets up to 120 kpm at best and spends much of the trip between 20 and 40 kph, owing to rails that are repeatedly ripped up.
Pointing again, the engineer said: "The rails have been lifted there many times and repaired 10 or 15 times and it's still happening," as the locomotive lurched to the left.
A little further on, the remains of another train lay on its side.
Germans began to build railroads in Iraq at the start of the 20th century, and since then the British, Russians, French and Chinese have all contributed to Iraqi efforts.
The line is being renovated between Baghdad and Basra, but it wasn't clear how work would fare in the Sunni Arab-dominated area that spawns insurgents.
Several wars left tracks and maintanence facilities in shambles, and looting in the spring of 2003 reduced Baghdad's Central Station to a ruin, though it has been restored since.
Of a total 2,339 kilometers of passenger track, less than 1,000 are in use, the line to Basra and a second that runs north to Mosul.
The train is pulled by a brand-new Chinese locomotive, but the cars are nearing the end of the line, with no water, electricity or air conditioning in temperatures climbing towards 45 degrees Centigrade (113 Fahrenheit).
Finally, Hassan saw a welcome landmark, a bridge known to engineers as kilometer 56 that meant he had made it safely.
"After this bridge everything will be fine because we will be close to the Iskandariyah railroad station. We're out of the danger zone," he said before stopping to let 30 people climb on board.
June 30th, 2005, 09:23 AM
This will be the new target of insurgents. It is also every easy to do something to the track to cause the train to derail.
June 15th, 2009, 12:02 PM
FEATURE-Baghdad-Basra train helps stitch up Iraq's wounds
BAGHDAD, Feb 21, 2008 (Reuters) - Like a stitch across a deep wound, the train between Iraq's two biggest cities reminds people of a more peaceful time before sectarian carnage nearly tore their country apart.
The service between Baghdad and Basra resumed with little fanfare in December after a hiatus of 18 months. Few dared use it at first, but word has spread of a safe and cheap journey, and railway officials are scrambling for funds for more carriages.
"There's been a great acceptance of the service ... People do not feel anxious. They're coming with their families," said Abdul-Ameen Mahmoud, the railway company's head of passenger transport.
The Iraqi General Railways Company halted the service in 2006 after killings, bombings and kidnappings intensified in the infamous "Triangle of Death", an area south of the capital through which the line passes.
Built by imperial German and British engineers in the first two decades of the 20th century in a race between Berlin and London to control the region, Iraq's railways were once a vital link between Europe and the Middle East.
The Baghdad-Basra line passes through a part of Iraq that became a notorious al Qaeda stronghold until U.S. and Iraqi forces poured more troops into it last year.
Attacks overall in Iraq have fallen 60 percent since last June when 30,000 extra U.S. troops became fully deployed and Sunni Arab tribal leaders turned against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda because of its indiscriminate violence.
Aboard the diesel-powered train, passengers settled in for the trip, oblivious to whether fellow travellers were Sunni or Shi'ite.
Women jiggled children on their knees and men chatted as the gleaming carriages pulled away from a spotless Baghdad platform, a picture of cleanliness and order in a country racked by chaos.
"Praise God, praise God for the return of the train. I was a bit afraid at first, but now I call on everyone to use it," said a man who gave his name only as Mehdi, travelling with his family.
Iraq has 3,300 km (2,000 miles) of railway track stretching across the country. The line reaches to Syria in the west and the railway company said it planned to extend it east to Iran and south to Kuwait.
The Baghdad-Basra journey takes 11 or 12 hours, stopping at about 40 stations.
"When the train goes by, people feel safe and feel that things are going back to how they were," said Colonel Ali al-Tamimi, the railway company's head of security.
"The railways are for all of us ... Do you think passengers declare their sect when they get on the train?"
Passenger after passenger praised the comfort of travelling on the train compared with stopping at checkpoints on the road from Baghdad to Basra, a gruelling journey of 550 km (340 miles).
"First of all, it's the cost. And it's comfortable and safe," said Um Khaled, surrounded by her children, explaining why she was happy to be making the journey.
Passengers were also thrilled about the government-subsidised price.
At 4,000 dinars ($3.33) for a seat, the trip is almost a quarter of the price of the lowest fare to Basra by public minivan, the more common form of transport. A sleeper ticket costs 10,000 dinars.
The cost of petrol has rocketed to 450 dinars per litre from about 50 dinars before the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"This is not the true ticket price, which does not cover the service cost at all. It's priced low as a service to the Iraqi people," Baghdad rail chief Mohammed Hashem said. "They're tired of going by car and constantly stopping at checkpoints."
Passengers are searched before boarding the train and the railway company's guards in blue uniforms patrol the carriages.
Even so, only four carriages are available on the Baghdad-Basra service, compared with six or seven before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hashem said.
Since then, trains, stations and tracks suffered from sabotage, looting and coalition and Iraqi army security operations, the railway company said.
While services from the capital to Basra have just restarted, the Baghdad railway company has kept many other lines open throughout the violence, with some services resuming as little as two weeks after the overthrow of Saddam five years ago.
The company's 11,000 employees -- a patchwork of Iraq's ethnic groups including Sunnis, Shi'ites, Kurds and Christians -- have braved bombs and violence to keep at least some of the network going during that time, Hashem said.
"Truth be told, we never really stopped the service," said Hashem. "Even when the situation was at its most dangerous, we kept going. It's our job."
June 15th, 2009, 01:24 PM
Here are some more recent news reports about Iraq's railways, all found via the Railways of Iraq (http://ccgi.ajg41.plus.com/) site:
A Railway's Painful Rebirth (http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/checkpointbaghdad/archive/2008/12/19/the-baghdad-commute.aspx)
Newsweek, December 19th 2008
In Baghdad, a Trip to Nowhere (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/unseen-iraq/2008/12/in_baghdad_a_trip_to_nowhere.html)
Washington Post, December 29th 2009
A Journey Into the Iraq of Recollection (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/31/AR2009033104413.html?hpid=topnews)
Washington Post, April 1st 2009
Taken for a ride in Baghdad... (http://timesonline.typepad.com/inside_iraq_weblog/2009/04/taken-for-a-ride-in-baghdad.html)
The Times (UK), April 13th 2009
Iraq's struggle to get railway back on track after neglect and war (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article6087847.ece)
The Times (UK), April 14th 2009
June 15th, 2009, 08:51 PM
Nice comparison between the second and first articles
March 13th, 2012, 07:50 PM
Baghdad's Central Station
Built in the 1950s by the British
I took these pics in January 2011
December 26th, 2012, 06:36 PM
New of the past months.
Construction of $340m Baghdad-Basra railway to being soon
BAGHDAD, Feb. 13 - Construction of a fast railway connection between Baghdad and Basra moves one step closer, as government discloses costs.
The Transportation Ministry has allocated $340m (4,000bn IQD) to lay down 600km of rail track between the two cities, and includes stops at Karbala, Moussayeb, Najaf, and Samawah.
The railway, through which trains will travel at 250km/h, will help facilitate the transport of goods between the not yet built $6bn (7tr IQD) Faw megaport in Basra, the Iraqi Capital and abroad.
The project will take a minimum of 12 months.
Earlier this month, the ministry announced it has started importing 14 trains from Turkey, each worth $1m (1.2bn IQD).
Iraq Seeks Investment to Upgrade Transport Network
Posted on 29 February 2012. Tags: Infrastructure
Iraq’s transport minister, Hadi al-Ameri [al-Amari] (pictured), has appealed to foreign firms to help restore his country’s dilapidated infrastructure by rebuilding airports and constructing a European-style rail network, according to a report from AFP.
Addressing nearly 50 companies in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, he said that as Iraq’s oil income rises in the coming years there will be increasing numbers of projects to upgrade the country’s potholed roads and small airports.
“Iraq could be the most attractive place in the world for investment in the transport sector … There are billions of dollars worth of opportunities for investment.”
Ameri said he expected revenues from oil would top $200 billion, double current projections, when production rises to around 4 million barrels per day in the coming years.
He said the government wanted to renovate existing airports and sea ports, as well as building new ones, and that it also wanted to establish 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) of rail track with “European characteristics”.
The recently-approved 2012 budget allocates around $1 billion for transport and communications.
Just last week the National Investment Commission again called for international companies to tender for the construction of a monorail system in Karbala.
Iraq purchases six Turkish trains
BAGHDAD, April 26 - Iraq's Ministry of Transportation has completed procedures to purchase six modern and up-to-date trains from Turkey.
The new trains, worth $9m, are part of the General Company for Railways plan to revamp railways system across the country. said Jawad al-Khorasan, spokesperson for Iraqi Railways' Directorate.
The trains will be put into service this May and are hoped to help boost the railway's income.
Khorasan said the trains are appropriate for the Iraqi climate and the nature of the Iraqi railways.
The revamp will replace Iraq's trains which are generally old and incapable of competing with the trains of other countries in the region.
December 26th, 2012, 06:39 PM
Iraqi Transportation Ministry announces launch of new railway projects
June 15, 2012 (15/6/12) -- By Mahmoud al-Mulhim in Baghdad
Officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation announced earlier this week the launch of a major overhaul and expansion campaign of the country's railway system.
The new projects aim to expand the rail system to all Iraqi cities and connect more of country's rail lines with those of neighbouring countries to increase trade, passenger travel and tourism, said ministry media advisor Kareem al-Nouri.
Al-Nouri told Mawtani the expansion will affect major border crossing outlets, including the Zakho outlet to Turkey, the Safwan crossing to the Gulf states, two border crossing outlets at Khanaqeen and Basra, the Traibeel outlet with Jordan and the Rabia and Husaiba border crossings.
He said these projects include the rehabilitation and development of existing trains and lines, while the ministry has also signed agreements with foreign companies to import newer, more comfortable trains.
"We found that the cost of repairing the old trains is close to the purchase price of modern ones," al-Nouri said. "Therefore, agreements were concluded with Chinese and French companies, which have long experience in manufacturing trains, to meet Iraq's needs."
He added that the rehabilitated trains will be used for internal transportation of people and goods.
Due to acts of sabotage, "rail tracks in Iraq do not allow for high speeds […] so we settled for a maximum speed of 250 kilometres per hour," he said.
Rafi Yusuf, director-general of the Iraqi railways company, told Mawtani that one of the new projects is the construction of a new line running from Baghdad to Basra that is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
"These projects will grow the company's financial revenues, which will help it pay back its loans," he said.
Company spokesperson Jawad al-Kharasan said the new projects "will help make the company profitable because it will win the trust of the people who have shunned travelling by trains between the provinces because of the ageing trains and the extent of the sabotage to which they were exposed".
"[Passengers and customers] will find a great difference, especially since they will be able to reach their destinations on the Baghdad-Basra line in half the time they used to spend," he said.
Al-Kharsan also said that 50 old train cars are scheduled to be refurbished by October.
In 2011, the state railway company signed a $50 million contract with Germany to buy 40,000 tons of steel tracks as a first step to building new lines inside Baghdad. New lines are also to be constructed in Karbala, Najaf and Babil provinces.
Iraq to Buys 10 Chinese Trains
Posted on 19 December 2012.
By John Lee
Iraqi Railways signed a contract to import 10 passengers trains from a Chinese company.
Aswat al-Iraq reports that the contract is valued at $115 million.
December 26th, 2012, 06:40 PM
Basra Railway Station
December 26th, 2012, 09:11 PM
Always good to hear of positive developments in Iraq!
December 26th, 2012, 10:14 PM
Isn't it a little bit too easy to bury an IED in the ballast?
January 8th, 2013, 04:35 PM
Iraqi Republic Railways orders Chinese DMUs
22 December 2012
IRAQ: A US$115m contract for Chinese firm Dongfang Electric Corp to supply Iraqi Republic Railways with 10 diesel multiple-units was signed in Baghdad on December 15.
The first two units are scheduled to be delivered within a year. IRR said the 160 km/h trainsets would be modern, sophisticated and built to a high specification.
The national railway is paying 10% of the contract value up front, with the remainder to be paid in instalments as each batch of trains is delivered.