Iraq launches $17bn road and rail project
The $17 billion project aspires to link Asia and Europe as well as transfer pilgrims to holy sites.
A $17 billion project to connect a major export port on Iraq's southern coast by rail and roadways to the Turkish border began on Saturday in an effort to restructure the nation's economy after decades of war.
The Director General of the General Company for Ports of Iraq, Farhan al-Fartousi told Reuters that the road is not only to move passengers or goods but rather opens the door to allow the "vast areas of Iraq" to develop.
The Iraqi government anticipates linkages to regional industrial centers, high-speed trains capable of carrying people and cargo at speeds of up to 300 km/h (186.41 mph), and an energy component that may include oil and gas pipelines, a major shift from Iraq's dated transport system.
There are now just a few railway lines in operation in Iraq, including a sluggish oil freight line and a lone overnight passenger train that travels 500 kilometers from Baghdad to Basra in 10 to 12 hours.
According to Fartousi, the Grand Faw Port, which was conceived more than ten years ago, is halfway finished.
The history of passenger travel between Iraq and Europe may be traced back to the Baghdad-Berlin Express at the start of the 20th century.
"We will make this line active again and tie it to other countries," he said.
The proposal was unveiled on Saturday during a conference intended to attract interest from Arab nations, particularly those in the Arab Gulf, Syria, and Jordan. Regional investment, according to a senior government adviser, is an option.
Despite long-standing development promises, Iraq's infrastructure is still in disrepair, despite efforts by the administration of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani to repair roads and bridges.
The Development Road, according to authorities, is predicated on something novel: A time of rather stable conditions that have existed since late last year and which they believe may continue.
Fartousi noted that the project could be completed as early as 2029.
"Even if Iraq was absent for a year or two or a decade or two, it must return one day or another. Hopefully, these days are the beginning of the return of Iraq," he hoped.