Return of the Orient Express

By Saleh Elias.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Mosul train station is empty after years of neglect. But local authorities say they want to revive railways here. It’s a sign of better conditions in the strife-torn city. But two similar projects have already failed. Can this one work?

Once this area, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, was bustling with passengers, buses, cars and the whistles of departing trains. Today the city’s train station is deserted and almost silent. Rusted wagons stand around, a pack of stray dogs roams the ruined buildings and somewhere in the distance one can faintly hear the sound of railway employees at work.

The railway station in Mosul, the capital of the state of Ninawa, was originally built after WWI by the British army and opened in 1938. Since then it has been a historical landmark in the troubled northern city – it bears the marks of Iraq’s past rulers and conflicts as well as the various festivals that it was used to host.

The station in Mosul was particularly well known because it was a stop on a sister route of the famous Orient Express, as well as part of the line which went from Berlin to Baghdad and which helped establish German dominance in the near Middle East in the early 20th century; the trains brought passengers of many different nationalities through Mosul.

But the railway was also obviously useful for locals. “For the people of Mosul, the train was a safe means of transport,” Ibrahim al-Allaf, a professor of contemporary history and the director of the Regional Studies Centre in Mosul, told NIQASH. “Ticket prices were low, the trains ran on time and the quality of service was excellent. I used it myself whenever I had to go to the universities in the capital. And hundreds of students used the trains too. It was a very reliable way of getting around.”

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