Trains Under Baghdad


Via Transport Politic, some encouraging transit news from Iraq, where the mayor of Baghdad recently announced plans to move ahead with the city’s first subway lines. The Guardian reports:

One of the new proposed subway lines would run 11 miles from
Shia-dominated Sadr City in the east to Adhamiya in north Baghdad. The
other would traverse 13 miles and link mixed central Baghdad to the
primarily Sunni western suburbs.

Both lines would have 20
stations each and run through a patchwork quilt of sectarian
neighbourhoods, which largely remain divided, despite the security
improvements. Bombs still rattle Baghdad daily, but on a much smaller
scale than the violence that ravaged the capital throughout 2006-07.

Naturally, huge question marks remain about a project that’s been tabled repeatedly over the years due to disruptive violence. But is there a better metaphor for a unified Baghdad?

"If anyone suggested a train back then, they would have been sent to
one of Saddam’s old mental homes and never heard from again," said an
incredulous Umm Fatimah, 41, from the suburb of Karada. "Even now it
does seem a bit crazy, but not as crazy as then."

Another Karada resident, Nazem al-Qasemi, said something had to be done
to sort out Baghdad’s chronically clogged arterial roads. "Look at it,"
he said, waving a hand at a gridlocked roundabout. "Even if this is
just talking, at least it’s giving us hope."

Graphic: Osamu Abe via Transport Politic

  • Carice

    Politics and symbolism aside, I know that building a subway without destroying archeological finds has been a real challenge for the Rome subway, I imagine that Bagdad must have the same problem, although probably worse, as it’s been inhabited longer. I wonder if subway is really the best way to go- perhaps light rail would be better?

  • Andrew

    That is pretty awesome. I hope that one day the funding we use to build Iraq’s infrastructure can be used for my hometown in the US to have a subway.

  • LN

    There are serious laws regulating digging for infrastructure in Iraq (and the US and most other countries) requiring archaeological investigations before. This is why it took decades to build the Rome and Athens subway. Anywhere you drop a spade in Iraq you will find some portion of its 12+ millennia of history and pre-history.

    But US contractors ignore Iraqi and international laws and seek to be exempt from them.

    US contractors have already destroyed the un-excavated portions of Babylon by setting up a US army base right on top of them, breaking Iraqi as well as international laws.

    Meanwhile, the NYC subway crumbles into archaeological ruins.

  • CollegeEd

    Lets just say what this is. A bad idea that will never happen. They have been having enough trouble just getting water and power throughout the city let-alone a mondern subway. Also anytype of mass transit is just a good target in Bagdad….”hey a whole bunch of the people I dont like…” Wont happen atleast not in the next 20years and by then the middle-east will have spent their oil wealth on everything but investing in the peoples long term intrest.

  • A bad idea that will never happen.

    Let’s just say what that is: the lamest naysaying possible. If it’ll never happen, why bother telling people it’s a bad idea?

    Of course reliable power is necessary for any good subway, but a subway helps a city run efficiently so that it’s economically capable of maintaining its water and power supplies.

    If a subway is a bad idea, then so are all the road-building projects that the US has undertaken in Iraq.

  • I would also point out that there are recently constructed subway systems in Tehran, Shiraz and Yerevan. Other cities in the Middle East planning rail systems include Kuwait, Dubai, Riyadh, Mecca, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

  • Boris

    Somebody should somehow swindle Halliburton into building something in the US using US money, as opposed to in Iraq using US money. And if benefitting Iraq at our expense would remain mandatory, we can use Iraqi labor.

  • jmc

    They need to work on more basic infrastructure right now: Power, water, and sewers. Then they can work on building a real bus system.

    That map is from the initial Saddam-era plan in the 80s.

    We should all hang our heads in shame for the horrible things we did and continue to do to those people who never attacked us.

  • zilfondel

    Its going to be built by Iraqis, not American construction companies.

    Also, Baghdad has some 10 million people in the city and Metro area. It is one of the largest cities in the world. The streets are already more crowded than Manhattan, LA, or Mexico City.


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