MEE – Iraq: Proposed light rail could revolutionise travel across congested capital by Tom Westcott in Baghdad

A poster of showing what the design of the Baghdad Elevated Train might look like (Tom Wescott/MEE)

Irak : Alstom – un projet de métro léger pourrait révolutionner les déplacements dans la capitale encombrée.

An ambitious project to build an elevated metro across Baghdad could eliminate hours of daily misery crawling through gridlock/Un projet ambitieux de construction d’un métro surélevé à travers Bagdad pourrait éliminer des heures de misère quotidienne à travers les embouteillages

On the ground floor of Baghdad’s striking Central Railway Station, behind long-since closed ticket booths offering fares to Syria and Turkey, a new office has opened.

Fringed with posters depicting modern trains dashing across a palm-fringed urban landscape and ascending from the train station, these show initial designs of how the Baghdad Elevated Train (BET) project might look when completed.

The light-rail project replaces previous plans, floated intermittently since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, to build a metro across the capital.

French multinational rail transport company Alstom signed a contract with Iraq in 2013 for feasibility and design studies, but financial crises, the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) and political problems delayed the project, and the technical complexities of building an underground network have seen the project shift to an elevated railway.

The Ministry of Transport BET project portfolio was handed to Iraqi Republic Railways (IRR), a British-created institution that predates the state of Iraq itself, in late 2020. Since then, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, BET has been steadily moving towards a project that may actually become a reality, IRR staff say.

« This is a first for Iraq. We have different railways but nothing like this, so it’s a very new experience for us, » IRR’s senior head of engineering, Sabar Allawi Lahes, told Middle East Eye. READ MORE