Iraq’s high-speed train network project named Dry Canal has entered the design phase.
The scheme will link the new Al-Faw Grand Port, which has been under construction since 2020, with northern Iraq and Turkey.
The ultimate aim of the scheme is to provide a cost-effective alternative to the Suez Canal.
The new port south of Umm Qasr, which currently serves as Iraq’s main seaport, is scheduled for completion by the end of 2025.
Italian engineering services company Progetti Europa & Global (PEG) was appointed last year to carry out feasibility studies for the project, which involves constructing 1,200 kilometres of new electric railway lines and is one of the largest railway network schemes in the region.
According to the statement, high-speed trains will operate along with conventional passenger and freight trains.
The tender for the construction of the first electric railway line is expected to be launched this year. The ministry said the project would be launched after the cabinet and parliament endorsed the 2023 state budget.
In addition, Iraq plans to connect all its ports with neighbouring countries, according to the general director of the General Company for Railways Talib al-Husseini, quoted by the Iraqi News Agency.
The Iraqi Transport Ministry formed the General Company for Railways.
The network will be connected to rail and road networks in Europe through Turkey with the aim of expanding trade with those countries.
Al-Husseini added: “The Turkish side has prepared its lands in preparation for the railway connection with Iraq, and there are ongoing discussions and meetings to determine the connection point.”
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani stressed the strategic importance of the project, emphasising the need to expedite its implementation. It will provide “an economic renaissance in our new Iraq”, he said.
Iraqi authorities have been planning to connect the frequently delayed Al-Faw Port with regional markets for several years.
In 2021, the General Company for Ports of Iraq (GCPI) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Abu Dhabi’s AD Ports group to promote increased cooperation between the two organisations within the fields of transportation and maritime.
The agreement involved AD Ports Group conducting feasibility studies on the management and operation of GCPI's ports and economic zones and other infrastructure, while also exploring potential investment opportunities.
AD Ports Group will also develop national infrastructure, such as roads and rail networks, to connect Al-Faw Port in Iraq with markets in Jordan and Turkey, while simultaneously financing the feasibility studies stated in the MoU.
With a pedigree spanning almost 100 years, Iraq’s rail system can stake a legitimate claim to being the oldest national network in the Middle East.
Read also: Iraq moves to improve rail network
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