Iranwire – Iraq expects to complete its first railway link with neighboring Iran “in about 18 months,” a senior transport adviser has said.
Nasser Al-Asadi, transport advisor to Iraq’s prime minister, told Reuters news agency that work is underway to clear the area between the southern Iraqi city of Basra and the Iranian border town of Shalamja before ground work could begin on the 30-kilometer railway link.
The line will help facilitate the transport of millions of Iranian pilgrims who visit Shia shrines in Iraq each year.
Many of them walk hundreds of kilometers from the Iran-Iraq border to Karbala or drive there in overcrowded cars and buses.
Asadi said the planned rail link would reduce the risk of traffic accidents and allow Iraq to benefit financially from ticket sales.
Iraq and Iran fought a devastating eight-year war in the 1980s during which much of the border area was heavily mined.
Since late dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003, Shia parties close to Tehran have become key political players in Baghdad and economic and religious ties between both nations have expanded.