100 Years Later, Iraq Railroad Still Runs - 11.24.2008

VIDEO - Iraq, Baghdad The railroad in Iraq has a long history of wars and occupations, in the 1920s the railroads tracks were used by the British forces for transporting military supplies from London to Baghdad during the British occupation and it was well known with the name “Orient Express”

The greatest era of the Iraqi railway was during the 1970s. Iraq imported new trains at that time and developed a new international schedule, with trains leaving Baghdad heading to Damascus, London, Berlin, Paris and other destinations in Europe. Iraqis and people all over the world used to dream of the chance to take a trip in the famous “Orient Express.”

In the 1980s the Orient Express was used intensely by the Ex-Iraq government for military purposes, to transport military equipment for the Iraqi Army during the Iraq-Iran war. The transportation of tanks and other heavy military equipment inflicted severe damages on the railroad tracks. Partly due to this reason, the passenger trains had nearly stopped during that era.

During the 1990s the international sanctions regime prevented Iraq from continuing their international trains and the travel of trains across Iraq’s borders. It was well known that the trains during Saddam’s regime were used for transporting soldiers and construction materials. People used to prefer travelling in their cars rather than the trains, due to the poor service and deteriorating conditions of the Iraqi railway.

When the United States bombing campaign began in 2003, many of the railroad tracks were destroyed, the train stations were looted and many key elements of the locomotives were stolen. The Iron used in constructing the trains provided a valuable commodity encouraging many thieves. Stations such as the Baghdad International Train Station were looted by individuals who stole everything down to the spare parts. That prevented the Iraqi Republic Railways company from fixing many trains and keep them in the stations without any news.

Now the Iraqi Republic Railways company is trying to fix the trains and is working on improving the old Orient Express, hoping the railroads will be modernized and good enough for passengers to use regularly in the near future.

This week our correspondent Nabeel Kamal visited the Iraqi Republic Railways company in Baghdad to see how the progress is going with this old company that is in fact older than Iraq itself.


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