The Syrian Railways General Establishment is planning to spend more than $1bn by 2020 on rehabilitating its railway network.

The Aleppo-based authority has set a budget of SYP5bn ($108m) to be spent each year for the next 10 years.

The investment includes rehabilitating about 1,450 kilometres of railway lines and building eight new lines comprising 1,350km, according to Georges Mokabari, director general of Syrian Railways.

The length of Syria’s existing railway network is 2,495km and has a capacity to carry about 2.3 million passengers a year.

When the upgrade of the existing lines and construction of the new lines is complete, the Syrian railway network will have 3,845km of lines and will be able to transport about 5.3 million passengers a year.

“Syrian Railways is seeking through cooperation with [railway authorities] in neighbouring countries to execute important transport corridors from Syrian seaports, [such as] Tartous port, Baniyas port and Lattakia port to Iraq and the Gulf or to Iran and eastern Asia by railway,” Mokabari tells MEED.

Syria together with other regional rail authorities is also planning to develop a seamless north-south corridor that would start in Europe, run through Turkey, connecting to the Syrian seaports and on to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf providing an efficient transportation route for passengers and freight from Europe directly to the Gulf.

“These corridors, north-south and east-west are international transport corridors, which are approved by all regional transport railway organisations,” says Mokabari.

The new railway lines include a 143-km line that will run from Deir Elzor, which is 320km southeast of Aleppo to Abu Kamel. It is already under construction and will be completed in 2011. At the border town of Abu Kamel, the line will connect to the Iraqi rail network and the Iraqi town of Alkaem.

A second project will involve upgrading the connections between the Syrian railway network to the Jordanian rail network as part of a regional railway line that will link Damascus with the Saudi Arabian port of Dammam on the Gulf coast.

The Syrian part of the line is 107km and runs from Damascus to Daraa on the Jordanian border.

It then runs to Nseb and Alzarka in Jordan, the Iraqi town of Alhaditha, and then onto Saudi Arabia passing through Hail and Riyadh before ending at Dammam.

In total the line from Damascus to Dammam will be 2,192km in length. According to Mokabari, coordination is ongoing between Syrian authorities and Saudi Arabia to develop this line.

Another project is a new 260km line that will link Deir Elzor with Palmyra in the centre of Syria and Alsharqya. This will mainly be a freight line to transport phosphate from mines in Alsharqya and Khnefis to fertiliser plants in Deir Elzor. This line is under preliminary study.

A new 145km line running from Alsharqya to Aldmer line will provide easier access to the eastern regions from Damascus, and also will provide an efficient connection between concrete factories in Abou Alshamat and the national network.

A new 37km-long Aldmer-Albaharie-Alkaboon railway running north from Damascus will be a passenger line aimed at transporting passengers to and from the capital. It will reduce the travelling time between Damascus and Aleppo to two and a half hours.

Other plans include three industrial railway lines to serve the dry ports, or inland transportation hubs, of Hasyaa, Adra and AlSheikh Najar.

Aside from the new railway lines, Syria is already working on a number of upgrades that will make existing railways high-speed lines to connect with neighbours such as Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Studies are underway to improve an 81km line to connect Yaroubeiyha on the Syria-Iraq border with Nusaybin on the Syria-Turkey border and to improve a line that runs 117km to Meydan Ekbezon on the Turkey border.

A line between Alaboudyeh on Lebanon’s border was dismantled, but studies are now under way to redevelop the line from Alakari station in Syria to the Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Although Syrian Railways had been authorised to build in Lebanese territory this project has since been delayed due to lack of financing from the Lebanese side.

Syria is also carrying out final studies to connect Damascus to Naseeb on the Jordanian border.