In an exciting development, Iraq is gearing up to complete its first-ever railway with its neighbor Iran within the next 18 months. The railway, spanning approximately 30 kilometers, will stretch from the southern Iraqi city of Basra to the Iranian border town of Shalamcheh. This ambitious project is set to foster closer ties between the two nations while greatly facilitating the transportation of millions of Shiite visitors to holy shrines in Iraq annually. Nasser Al-Asadi, the Iraqi Prime Minister’s advisor for Transport Affairs, has shed light on the significance of this groundbreaking initiative.
One of the most profound impacts of this railway will be on religious tourism. Iraq is home to important Shiite shrines, and around 20 million Shiite Muslims participate annually in the Arbaeen commemoration of Imam Hussein in the holy city of Karbala. Many of these pilgrims travel long distances, often on treacherous roads, from the Iranian-Iraqi border to reach their destination. The completion of the Iraq-Iran railway will alleviate the risks associated with this arduous journey, providing a safer and more efficient mode of transport for devout pilgrims.
Nasser Al-Asadi highlighted the fact that the railway will not only offer a safer alternative to road travel but also enhance Iraq’s overall transportation network. The reduction in road traffic is expected to lead to fewer accidents, ultimately saving lives and providing a more comfortable journey for travelers.
It’s worth noting that the construction of this railway represents a significant milestone in the relationship between Iraq and Iran. The two countries share a border that was once fraught with conflict, notably during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. This brutal conflict left a legacy of danger, with extensive minefields littering the border area.
To prepare for the railway’s construction, efforts are already underway to clear these minefields and ensure the safety of the workers and future passengers. This cooperative effort underscores the commitment of both nations to building a brighter future through infrastructure development and increased connectivity.
While religious tourism is a pivotal aspect of the Iraq-Iran railway project, it also has broader implications for trade and economic growth in the region. This railway will serve as a vital trade link, facilitating the movement of goods and people between the two nations. As Iraq continues to rebuild and develop its economy, improved transportation links with its neighbors are essential for fostering trade and economic prosperity.
The Iraq-Iran railway is part of a larger-scale transportation development plan initiated by the Iraqi government. This comprehensive plan encompasses the renovation and expansion of Baghdad International Airport, a critical gateway to the country. Additionally, a massive 1,200-kilometer railway and road project is in the works, connecting a major southern Iraqi port to the Turkish border. These infrastructure projects are poised to transform Iraq’s transportation sector, enabling the nation to play a more prominent role in regional trade and connectivity.
As Iraq and Iran come together to complete the first railway linking their nations, the benefits are manifold. From providing a safer route for religious pilgrims to boosting trade and economic growth, this project stands as a testament to the power of cooperation and infrastructure development. In the coming 18 months, the completion of the Iraq-Iran railway will not only strengthen ties between these two neighbors but also contribute significantly to the transportation network of the entire region, setting the stage for increased prosperity and connectivity.