Iraq to begin cross-border railway project with Iran

The Basra-Shalamcheh railway project will not only link the Iraqi city of Basra with the Iranian town of Shalamcheh, but also connect Iran to Jordan and Syria

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani will be visiting Basra on 2 September to attend the inauguration ceremony of the construction of the Basra-Shalamcheh railway project linking Iraq to Iran, Tasnim News Agency reported.

“The foundation for the Basra-Shalamcheh railway project will be laid, initiating the implementation of this significant transportation initiative between Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” a statement by Iraqi government spokesman Bassam al-Awadi reads.

Awadi noted that the railway project “aims to facilitate the movement of passengers and visitors between the two countries and is considered vital for enhancing connectivity and transportation efficiency in the region.”

The railway, which will be 32 kilometers long, is set to link the city of Basra with the Iranian border town of Shalamcheh and will have the capacity to transport 3 million passengers per year. It will cost around $100-120 million to complete.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Mokhber arrived in Khuzestan province to attend the ceremony. According to Fars News Agency, Mokhber described the railway as a “strategic project for Iran and Iraq that can bring about a major change in the West Asia region” and revealed that the railway will be operational in two years.

The vice president also revealed that the project will connect Iran to the Mediterranean, specifically Jordan and Syria.

On 6 August, advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister Hazim Majid Naji said that the railway project is a priority for the Iraqi government on the sidelines of a meeting with Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Ehsan Khandozi, in Tehran.

After the project was halted in 2014 due to the threat of ISIS in the region, Tehran and Baghdad signed an agreement in 2021 to set a final date for the beginning of construction.

As part of the agreement, Iran and Iraq have stipulated the process of removing mines that were planted during the eight-year war between the two countries from 1980 to 1988, which stood as an obstacle for the Iraqi government to commence its own construction for the project.

Additionally, the agreements include plans to construct a movable bridge on the Shatt al-Arab, located north of Basra, which Jalal Mokhtari, the head of public relations at the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (IRIR), described as a “complicated task.”

Kehinde Olusegun

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