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Iraq launches $17 billion road and rail project to link Asia and Europe

Factbox: European companies cut jobs as economy sputters

BAGHDAD, May 27 (Reuters) – Iraq launched a $17 billion project on Saturday to link a major commercial port on its southern coast by rail and road to the border with Turkey, in a move designed to transform the country’s economy after decades of war and crisis. .

The development road aims to connect the port of Grand Faw in Iraq’s oil-rich south with Turkey, turning the country into a transit hub by cutting travel times between Asia and Europe in a bid to rival the Suez Canal.

“The development road is not just a road for the movement of goods or passengers. This road opens the door to the development of vast areas of Iraq,” Farhan al-Fartousi, director general of the General Company of Iraq Ports, told Reuters.

The Iraqi government envisions high-speed trains carrying goods and passengers at speeds of up to 300 kilometers (186.41 miles) per hour, links to local industrial hubs and an energy component that could include oil and gas pipelines.

This would mean a significant departure from the country’s existing outdated transport network.

The Iraqi Railways currently has several lines, including a slow oil transport and one overnight passenger train that runs from Baghdad to Basra, taking 10 to 12 hours to cover 500 kilometers.

Grand Faw Port, which was conceived more than a decade ago, is halfway to completion, Fartousi said.

Passenger traffic between Iraq and Europe is reminiscent of the grand plans at the turn of the 20th century to create the Baghdad-Berlin expressway.

“We will reactivate this line and connect it to other countries,” Fartousi said, highlighting plans to transport tourists and pilgrims to Shiite holy sites in Iraq and Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage.

The project was announced on Saturday at a conference aimed at attracting the interest of Arab countries, including the Arab Gulf states, Syria and Jordan. A senior government aide said regional investment is on the table.

Promises of development are long-standing in Iraq, but infrastructure remains dilapidated even as the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani works to rebuild roads and bridges.

But officials say the Development Path is based on something new: a period of relative stability since late last year that they hope can be sustained.

If work begins early next year, the project will be completed in 2029, Fartousi said.

“Even if Iraq has been away for a year or two or a decade or two, it has to come back one day. We hope these days are the beginning of Iraq’s return,” he said.

Reporting by Timour Azhari and Maher Nazeh in Baghdad and Aref Mohammed in Basra; Writing by Timour Azhari; Editing by Mike Harrison

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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