Iran Iraq agreement

ASIA: An agreement has been signed to complete the 30 km Shalamcheh – Basra railway which would connect the national rail networks of Iran and Iraq.

Islamic Republic of Iran Railways and Iraqi Republic Railways expect to establish a joint venture within two months to implement the long-planned project.

‘The agreement has a clear timetable, and one of its clauses is that implementation of the project will begin within the next month’, said Iran’s Minister of Roads & Urban Development Rostam Qasemi after signing the agreement with his Iraqi counterpart Nasser Hussein Bandar Al-Shibli in Baghdad on December 27. ‘For almost 20 years we have had numerous negotiations with the Iraqi side to implement the Shalamcheh – Basra railway, and there were many memoranda signed which never achieved the desired result.’

The Iranian ministry said the line would fill a gap in east – west transport corridors, providing Iraq with rail access to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and beyond. Freight operations would help to grow trade, while passenger traffic would include pilgrims travelling to Karbala in Iraq.

Among the principal elements of the project, the bridge to carry the line over the Shatt-Al-Arab waterway is expected to take 1½ years to complete. Between 15 and 20 km of the alignment will need to be cleared of land mines.