MEED this week published a major report on Iraq’s infrastructure needs and I contributed with sections on transport, logistics and housing. Read the full report here (if you subscribe)
Beyond the obvious security and political challenges Iraq’s transport sector is also hindered by transport responsibilities being split between two main government departments in and the Ministry of Construction and Housing who look after all the roads and the Ministry of Transport which looks after everything else. During my research I learned that Dar Al Handasah has been selected by MoCH to carry out a 20yr transport masterplan for the country, however successful delivery of this will rely on cooperation with the MoT.
Although the long-term strategy is yet to be determined, Baghdad has outlined general objectives. Its ultimate ambition is to offer an alternative transport corridor for logistics and trade from the East into Europe. Most ships currently sail around the Arabian Peninsula and through the Suez Canal. Iraq wants to offer a world-class port at Faw on the country’s southern tip, which will be connected to a regional rail network. Grand Faw Port is the biggest priority for Iraq’s ports and involves the construction of a 17-metre deep port, allowing the world’s largest vessels to dock, and 7,000 metres of quayside. The General Company for Ports of Iraq told me that a second contract is being tendered for a breakwater so progress on this project is being made.
From Faw, the plan is to move cargo via a rail link to the improved north-south railway, which will eventually extend into Jordan, Syria, Kuwait and Iran, as well as along the existing line to Turkey. All new lines will be double-track to allow both passenger and freight travel. On the current network, passengers and freight compete along slow and congested lines. As a result, most travellers and cargo haulage firms choose to drive, making a journey from Basra to Baghdad in five hours instead of up to 14 hours by train.
The new rail network also includes plans for passenger-only lines, including a 663-kilometre connection between Baghdad and Umm Qasr running south through Karbala, Najaf and Basra. French rail company Alstom signed a memorandum of understanding with the government to study this option in July 2011. According to IRR, the project is still in the preliminary design stage. Read more on this in MEED using the link above
Thanks to everyone who helped in the research.