BAGHDAD (Agencies): In a significant development, Iraq is embarking on the long-pending cross-border railway project linking it with neighboring Iran. According to a credible government source, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani is scheduled to inaugurate the commencement of this venture. The ceremony, expected to take place in the southern province of Basra, will see the laying of the foundation stone for the ambitious 36-kilometer railway initiative.
The railway line will establish a connection between Iraq’s Basra and Iran’s border town of Shalamcheh. Notably, this railway network is designed to facilitate the transportation of up to three million passengers annually. The two countries sealed an agreement in 2021 to kick-start the project, which had remained in the pipeline for several years. Notably, earlier plans had been deferred in 2014—a period coinciding with the emergence of Daesh across parts of northern Iraq and eastern Syria.
Overcoming various obstacles and delays, renewed efforts were set into motion in April. During a meeting in the Iranian capital, Baghdad and Tehran reaffirmed their commitment to realizing the railway link. The agreement was formalized between Iraqi Minister of Transport Razzaq Mohibis Al-Saadawi and Iranian Minister of Roads and Housing Mehrdad Bazarbash.
Jalal Mokhtari, the head of public relations at the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IRIR), emphasized the complexity of constructing a “movable bridge for trains and ships to pass through the Arvand [River].” This underscores the technical intricacies associated with this project.
The delay in the Iraqi construction efforts is attributed to the presence of landmines from the Iran-Iraq War along the border. Mokhtari highlighted the need for Iraq to carry out demining operations and construct the railway track on its side of the border before the project can fully progress.
Beyond economic challenges that contributed to setbacks, disputes over the responsible entity for construction have also played a role. Nonetheless, this railway project holds substantial potential to foster connectivity and enhance transportation between Iraq and Iran, contributing to regional development and cooperation.