Return of the Orient Express

In fact, all kinds of people in Mosul – from students to soldiers – remember the train journeys, the train whistles and the ceaseless clattering of their wheels, with great fondness.

Which is why locals say they are pleased to hear that a decision has been made to reopen Mosul’s railway. The first stage of the renovation of the railways should see trains travelling between Mosul and the Rabia border crossing into Syria, around 100km south of Mosul, and also between Mosul and Qayyarah, around 60km south-west of Mosul.

“The government of Ninawa has said it will cover the maintenance costs for the trains and also other costs and supplies and an executive committee has been set up to do that. But we’re still waiting approval from the Ministry of Transport before we can begin,” Ali Mahmoud, the state government’s communications manager told NIQASH.

The real challenge lies not in renovating the railway station but the railway lines and also finding suitable staff. Former train drivers around Mosul are worried that there will be nobody to teach the new staff that will most certainly be required. “If we retire, there won’t be anyone to carry on,” one Mosul engine driver, currently unemployed, told NIQASH. “No new drivers have been recruited for a decade because there hasn’t been any money to do so.”

And then there are the railway lines. “Over the past seven years nobody has been able to finish work on the Mosul-Rabia lines,” Akram Ahmed, the head of railways in Iraq’s northern region, complained. “The trains’ speeds will barely reach 60kmh, which is well below the world average.” Most trains around the world, that are not high speed trains, travel at between 130kmh and 200kmh.

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