Iraq Rail Service Back on Track after Daesh Defeat

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – At Baghdad’s grand but half-empty railway station, a single train is sputtering to life. It is the newly revived daily service to Falluja, a dusty town to the west.

Iraq Rail Service Back on Track after Daesh Defeat

The driver and conductor assure that the tracks running through Anbar province are now clear of mines planted by Daesh and of collapsed bridges the terror group blew up when it marauded through western and northern Iraq in 2014.

The rapid advance of the Takfiri militants shut down the line, before Iraqi forces drove them out of Falluja in 2016 and defeated them in Iraq in late 2017.

After a four-year hiatus, hundreds of rail passengers now travel the 30 miles (50 km) between Baghdad and Falluja in just over an hour. By car, the journey can take several.

“The train saves time. The Baghdad-bound leg arrives at 8 a.m., which suits my schedule. It’s also cheaper” than by car at 3,000 Iraqi dinars ($2.50) for a ticket, commuter Thamer Mohammed said

The driver and conductor assure that the tracks running through Anbar province are now clear of mines planted by Daesh and of collapsed bridges the terror group blew up when it marauded through western and northern Iraq in 2014.

The rapid advance of the Takfiri militants shut down the line, before Iraqi forces drove them out of Falluja in 2016 and defeated them in Iraq in late 2017.

After a four-year hiatus, hundreds of rail passengers now travel the 30 miles (50 km) between Baghdad and Falluja in just over an hour. By car, the journey can take several.

“The train saves time. The Baghdad-bound leg arrives at 8 a.m., which suits my schedule. It’s also cheaper” than by car at 3,000 Iraqi dinars ($2.50) for a ticket, commuter Thamer Mohammed said, Reuters reported.

 “You don’t have to stop at checkpoints, and it’s safer. You avoid road accidents,” said the 42-year-old, a Falluja resident studying for a history doctorate in Baghdad.

The revival in July of the daily service, once a feature of an extensive rail network dating back to the Ottoman empire, is a vivid example of Iraq’s attempts to recover from decades of unrest.

Passengers see it as a metaphor for the country’s state: security has improved enough to allow unhindered passage through countryside dominated for years by Daesh militants. But the train is dilapidated and shudders as it gathers speed.

The state of the tracks allows a steady pace of up to around 70 miles per hour (100 km), but no more. Dozens of windows have been smashed by children who play in the dirt in poor Baghdad districts and pelt carriages with stones as they cruise by.

“I hope the service will keep running, but in the last few days there have been delays. Sometimes it runs out of fuel on the journey, or has technical failures,” Mohammed said.

Abdul Sittar Muhsin, a media official for the national operator Iraqi Republic Railways, said the company was in dire need of funding to keep the service running.

“We did this with the company’s money and we’re operating at a loss,” he said.

Regular passengers include unemployed youth looking for work, a perennial problem in Iraq where demonstrations over lack of jobs, water and power turned violent in the southern city of Basra in September.

Related news
Most Visited in World
Top World stories
Top Stories