Iraq will start inviting contractors to bid for work on the $3bn Baghdad metro project in 12 months time, with construction likely to start towards the end of 2011.

The authorities in Baghdad are currently reviewing the technical studies for the metro project, according to a source closely involved with the project. The budget for the study is also under negotiation.

France’s Systra is supervising the project. It is likely to take up to 10 months to complete the design and the preparation of the tender documents.

The first line of the metro will run 18 kilometres from the predominantly Shi’ite Sadr City in the east through the city centre and then north and will have 20 stations, the source says.

The second line will run 21km starting in the south of the city before crossing the river Tigris and on to the mostly Sunni neighbourhoods in west Baghdad. This line will have 21 stations (MEED 27:3:09).

The plans for the metro date back to the late 1970s and had it been built then, it would have been the first urban railway in the Arab world. Instead, the plans were shelved due to Iraq’s 1980-88 war with Iran.