Iraqi passenger services in The Times

The Times had a couple of articles about passenger services in Iraq last week.

One is Iraq’s struggle to get railway back on track after neglect and war (14 April 2009). It seems the Baghdad – Dora commuter service is somewhat unsuccessful, but “Against the odds, the minister has reopened a nightly passenger route between Baghdad and Basra. A train also runs every Friday to Samarra, a holy city to the north of the capital, carrying pilgrims to its golden-domed shrine. Last month a weekly service resumed between Baghdad and Fallujah.”

In Taken for a ride in Baghdad… (13 April 2009) the newspaper’s Baghdad Correspondent, Deborah Haynes, decribes how the Ministry of Transport organised a press trip on the commuter train … but something wasn’t quite right about it.

A ride from Baghdad to Basra

The Washington Post of 1 April 2009 has a feature by Anthony Shadid who rode the tran from Baghdad to Basra.

A Journey Into the Iraq of Recollection

Two clock towers stand like sentinels on each side of a turquoise dome built half a century ago. Musty ticket counters advertise lines that no longer run: to Mosul, to Husaybah, and across the border, to Syria and Turkey. Flickering chandeliers illuminate distinctions — Couchette Class, Tourist Class — that no longer matter.

There are some photos of the train interiors.

The Financial Times also had a version of the same article, Iraqis back on track to a normal life. At 6.25pm, the horn blows and home-bound workers and students throw their jackets, shoulder bags and tightly rolled carpets on the rack overhead. They settle into frayed green leather seats – their murmur like that of an audience before a play.

In Baghdad, a Trip to Nowhere

In the 29 December 2008 story In Baghdad, a Trip to Nowhere Washington Post Staff Photographer Andrea Bruce takes a ride on the Baghdad commuter train.

At 5:30 a.m., everything is dark at the Baghdad Central Station. There are no passengers about, and most of the gates are still locked. The morning train, the only working train, leaves the station with a deep, heavy rhythm that vibrates through the six passenger cars. Only the engine has electricity. There are no lights.

A Baghdad commute is a collection of some quite artistic photos Bruce took of the trip – it’s not everywhere people skin sheep alongside comuuter lines.

Newsweek looks at reviving Iraq’s railways

Newsweek has a 19 December 2008 report A Railway’s Painful Rebirth by Jessica Ramirez.

There is another video of the Baghdad commuter service – including cab views, Chinese and Turkish built locos, sheep, and motorists with a cavalier attitude to level crossing safety.

… Iraq’s railways, which came to a halt during the war, have reopened two lines in the last two months. There is now a Friday train to Samarra and a commuter train, Baghdad’s first, which makes two round trips a day between the Central Baghdad Station and the District of Dora. Railway workers consider these the first signs of progress for an industry trying to recover from the looting, murders and bombings that ravaged it after the U.S-led invasion. In a larger sense, they also reflect the long-term impact of conflict and the struggle to get a country back on track.

Video shows Baghdad commuter trains

All aboard… Baghdad’s train is a December 10 2008 NBC news video about the re-launch of commuter rail services in Baghdad.

With traffic in downtown Baghdad typically a snarled mess, the old commuter train has been re-introduced to combat commuter nightmares. Ride the train with NBC News’ Kianne Sadeq as it dodges goats, cars and weaves through Baghdad.

There are shots of Chinese and Turkish locos in action on the service, which was introduced at the end of October.

I found the video via Commuter trains return to Baghdad at the National Association of Railroad Passengers, who say

Hopefully the system will be successful in the long term and symbolize normalcy and stability for weary residents, as well as deliver benefits to commuters tired of facing the hazards and inconveniences of road travel in the region.

Baghdad metro plan is revived

The Guardian of 18 November 2008 reports the revival of plans to build a metro in Baghdad, with money being set aside for a feasibility study.

Baghdad goes underground with $3bn metro plan

[On 17 November] the mayor of Baghdad surprised everyone by announcing plans for an underground train network that will literally carve a swathe through the city’s sectarian lines.

If investors sign up, the world’s most violent capital will soon have a $3bn (£2bn) metro. Sabir al-Issawi, Baghdad’s mayor, said money had been set aside in next year’s budget for a feasibility study.

And if that goes ahead, the Iraqi government has earmarked funding that it claims could build most of the two mooted train lines without private help. Even the country’s eternal optimists were last night calling the plan ambitious, but lauding its audacity.

One of the new proposed subway lines would run 11 miles from Shia-dominated Sadr City in the east to Adhamiya in north Baghdad. The other would traverse 13 miles and link mixed central Baghdad to the primarily Sunni western suburbs.

Both lines would have 20 stations each

The project’s engineer Atta Nabil Hussain Auni Atta, of Iraq’s transport ministry, said old 1970s blueprints for the underground line were being redrawn to bring it up to speed with the specifications of modern railways.

Source: Guardian, UK

This map of a proposed two-line metro network was produced in the past

In July 1982 Railway Gazette International reported plans for a metro. Work was to start August 1983, for test running 1986:

Construction phase Line Route Description
Phase 1 Line 1 north to west Thawra (depot)/Sadr City – Aadhamiya 32km 36 stations.
60% bored tunnel, rest cut and cover
Line 2 south to east Mansour (depot) (south) – Masbah (east)
Phase 2   extensions 11 km, 10 stations
Phase 3 Line 3 In north of city  

Another 18 November 2008 report:

Iraq plans Baghdad metro to ease traffic

One metro line would run 18 kilometres from the far side of the eastern Shiite slum of Sadr City to the centre of the city and then up north to the mostly Sunni Adhamiyah neighbourhood, covering 20 stations.

The second line, extending 21 kilometres, would start in the south and pass through the central commercial district of Karrada before crossing the Tigris river and running out to the mostly Sunni neighbourhoods in west Baghdad.

Source: AFP/Yahoo