On Saturday, Iraq inaugurated a $17 billion project to connect a major commodities port on its southern coast by train and roadways to the Turkish border, in an effort to overhaul the country’s economy after decades of war and catastrophe.
The Development Road proposes to connect Iraq’s oil-rich south to Turkey, transforming the country into a transit centre by decreasing travel time between Asia and Europe and competing with the Suez Canal.
“The Development Road is more than just a route for products and passengers. “This road opens up vast areas of Iraq for development,” Farhan al-Fartousi, director general of Iraq’s General Company for Ports, told Reuters.
The Iraqi government thinks high-speed trains capable of moving goods and passengers at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour (186.41 miles per hour), as well as connections to local industry clusters and an energy component that could include oil and gas pipelines.
It would be a big shift from the country’s current aging transportation network.
Iraq’s train service currently operates a few lines, including slow oil freight and a solitary nighttime passenger train that runs from Baghdad to Basra, covering 500 miles in 10 to 12 hours.
Fartousi stated that the Grand Faw Port, which was conceived over a decade ago, is halfway completed.
Passenger transit between Iraq and Europe dates back to lofty dreams for a Baghdad-to-Berlin express at the turn of the twentieth century.
“We will reactivate this line and connect it to other countries,” Fartousi added, referring to plans to transport tourists and pilgrims to Shiite holy sites in Iraq and Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the Haj pilgrimage.
On Saturday, the proposal was announced during a conference intended at attracting Arab interest, especially from Arab Gulf states, Syria, and Jordan. According to a top government official, regional investment is being considered.
Iraq has consistently pledged progress, but infrastructure remains in disrepair, despite efforts by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s government to rehabilitate roads and bridges.
However, officials claim that the Development Road is built on something new: a period of relative stability since late last year, which they intend to continue.
Fartousi estimates that if construction begins early next year, the project will be completed in 2029.
“Even if Iraq is absent for a year, two years, or a decade, it must return one day.” “Hopefully, these are the first days of Iraq’s return,” he remarked.