Baghdad – Basra in The Times

Today’s Times has an article It’s all aboard for hope as the Basra express leaves on time

It consists of nothing more than a locomotive, three rickety old carriages and a goods van, and, on this particular morning, only 20 passengers. But what matters is that a rudimentary service to Basra, abandoned as Iraq was engulfed by violence, is finally up and running again.

“Railroads are essential for reconstruction. Our focus is on infrastructure building before we do any more passenger lines,” Mr Omun said, arguing that trains are much safer and far cheaper than moving goods along checkpoint-littered, bandit-infested, bomb-pocked roads using Iraq’s deeply corrupt trucking industry

Picking out the anorak stuff

The 310-mile (500km)journey takes them 12 hours because the line is in such terrible condition. And with tickets costing only $4 (£2), or $8 for a couchette…

…grimy 23-year-old French-made coaches…

Saddam Hussein’s personal carriages stand alongside [Baghdad Central] Platform 8, long since stripped of their gold and silver fittings.

[Mick Omun, an American official who is co-ordinating US and Iraqi efforts to rebuild the network] reckons that only 20 per cent of the IRR’s rolling stock and fewer than 60 of its 225 locomotives — mostly Chinese or Russian — are still functional. “The rest are junk,” he said

.. the service resumed on December 16…

The full article can be read on the Times website

It would probably be being pessimistic to link to a Telegraph article on a similar journey in June 2003 (when it only cost 60p!), or a visitor’s photos.