Baghdad plans US$ 3 billion metro

18 November 2008

Baghdad's mayor, Sabir al-Issawi, has announced ambitious plans to build a two line, 39 km-long metro system in the divided Iraqi capital.

The major said money has been set aside in next year's budget for a feasibility study. Following completion of the study the Iraqi government has earmarked funds that could build almost all of the two metro lines without private sector help, added Mr al-Issawi.

One line would run 18 km from the far side of the eastern Shiite-dominated Sadr City to the centre of Baghdad and then north to the mostly Sunni Adhamiyah neighbourhood.

The second 21 km-long line would start in the south and pass through the central commercial district of Karrada before crossing the Tigris River and running out to the mostly Sunni neighbourhoods in west Baghdad.

Both lines will have 20 stations.

A Baghdad metro system was first mooted under the regime of Saddam Hussein in the 1970s. If it had been nbuilt it would have been the first railway in the Arab world. The start of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, and the subsequent blockades and US-led invasion put paid to the scheme.

Speaking to news agencies, the project's engineer Atta Nabil Hussain Auni Atta, of Iraq's transport ministry, said old 1970s blueprints for the underground line were being redrawn to bring it up to speed with the specifications of modern railways.

"This is one of Baghdad's most important projects and we hope that investors will join it," he said. "We have called for tenders from them and we have some money to contribute from the government. We are planning to start work as early as next year.

"This has been postponed so many times because of war and chaos but this time we are sure it will happen."

Baghdad is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, with a population in 2008 of six million and a growth rate of +4.2%. The population is expected to rise to more than 10 million by 2030.

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