Baghdad train station

New railway line connecting east and west in the works, this time in Iraq

A four-car passenger train waits for departure at Baghdad's train station. 2004, The U.S. National Archives

A new railway link from the Persian Gulf to Turkey and eventually Europe via Iraq has entered the design phase. The country is expediting the project, as it is well aware of its potential in fulfilling an important role for trade with the southeast.

The project is called the dry canal, which will link the new 2.65-billion-dollar Grand Faw Port, under construction since 2020, with northern Iraq and Turkey. The new port south of Umm Qasr, which currently serves as Iraq’s main sea port, is scheduled for completion by year-end 2025.

The project involves the construction of new electric railway lines with a total length of 1.200 kilometres. This was reported by local media that quoted Yunis Al-Kaabi, Director of the General Rail Company, an affiliate of the Iraqi Transport Ministry. The network will then be connected to rail and road networks in Europe through Turkey with the aim of expanding trade with those countries, Kaabi added.

New port with transit options

Turkey has already been taking position as a major transit country for rail traffic from east to west. It plays an important role on the Middle Corridor, where cargo from China is shipped to the west via the Caspian Sea. Lately, more and more companies are also including ports in Turkey in their network, with rail connections to and from these ports.

When the frequently delayed Grand Faw port is completed, this will add another port option for traffic coming from the southeast. Cargo from India or abroad would have an additional hub in the region, next to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and the port of Jebel Ali in the UAE.

The Italian company PEG has been charged with carrying out feasibility studies, which will be presented by the end of 2023. The tender for the construction of the first electric railway line is expected to be launched this year as well.

Iraq’s railway network dates back to the early 20th century and currently comprises more than 2,000 kilometres of standard gauge railway tracks. The country’s first high-speed railway – between Baghdad and Basra – opened in 2014. While designed for speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour, it is not used as such. Plans to double Iraq’s railway network have been around for more than a decade but have yet to materialise.

This article first appeared on sister publication

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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