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Iraq: Railroads
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Transportation > Railroads


Iraq possessed two separate railroads at independence, one standard gauge and one meter gauge. The standard gauge line ran north from Baghdad through Mosul to the Syrian border and to an eventual connection with the Turkish railroad system, and the meter gauge line ran south from Baghdad to Basra. Because the two systems were incompatible, until the 1960s cargo had to be transloaded at Baghdad to be transported between the two halves of the country. The Soviet Union helped extend the standard gauge system to Basra, and by 1977 fully 1,129 kilometers of Iraq's 1,589 kilometers of railroad were standard gauge. By 1985 the total length of railroad lines had been extended to 2,029 kilometers, of which 1,496 kilometers were standard gauge. In 1985 the railroads were being traveled by 440 standard-gauge locomotives that moved 1.25 billion tons of freight per kilometer. A 252-kilometer line linking Kirkuk and Al Hadithah was completed by contractors from the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in 1987 after five years of work. Built at a cost of US$855 million, the line was designed to carry more than 1 million passengers and more than 3 million tons of freight annually. The system included maintenance and control centers and more than thirty bridges crossing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. By the end of the century, Iraq planned to triple the line's passenger capacity and to double its freight capacity. A 550-kilometer line, built by a Brazilian company and extending from Baghdad to Qusaybah on the Syrian border, was also opened in the same year. In 1987 Indian contractors were finishing work on a line between Al Musayyib and Samarra. Iraqi plans also called for replacing the entire stretch of railroad between Mosul and Basra with modern, high-speed track, feeding all lines entering Baghdad into a 112-kilometer loop around the city, and improving bridges, freight terminals, and passenger stations. In addition, Iraq has conducted intermittent negotiations over the years with Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia concerning the establishment of rail links to complete a continuous Europe-Persian Gulf railroad route.

Data as of May 1988

Last Updated: May 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iraq was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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