INTRO: Part of the Hedjaz Railway alignment is being relocated below ground in the centre of Damascus

WORK HAS started to rebuild a short section of the Hedjaz-Syrian Railway alignment in the centre of Damascus. A 4 km section between Qadam station in the southern part of the city and the Hedjaz station is being relocated underground, reducing road traffic congestion caused by level crossings and preparing the way for a future metro service.

The tunnel will have three tracks, one laid to the 1050mm Hedjaz Railway gauge and the other two built to the 1435mm gauge of Syrian Railways. Dr-Eng Hassan Al Khiami, Manager of the Engineering Unit for Special Structures at Damascus University, which carried out engineering design for the project, says that one track will allow main line trains arriving at Qadam to reach the Hedjaz station, a second track will be used by trains running between the city centre and Damascus airport, while the Hedjaz gauge track will handle Hedjaz trains to and from Amman and trains using the branch to Sirghaya. Provision has been made for conversion of this track to standard gauge in the future.

The tunnel is on a rising grade from south to north, and cut-and-cover construction is being used throughout.

An intermediate underground station will be located at Thuraia and a second intermediate station at Fahameh will be in the open. The most spectacular structure will be the new Hedjaz station which will have six platforms serving eight tracks 9m below ground. A concourse will be built over the underground tracks, and above that is a retail level with cafes and restaurants. On top of the retail area will be a car park with spaces for 500 cars, itself topped by an 18-storey office block.

The whole project is due for completion in 2007.

CAPTION: Artist’s impression of the rebuilt Hedjaz station in Damascus, which will have six platforms serving eight tracks, topped by a new retail complex and office block

CAPTION: Construction work has started on the trench to carry the cross-city rail link through the heart of the Syrian capital