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Iraqi Republic Railways Company (IRR) (Arabic,الشركة العامة لسكك الحديد العراقية) is the national railway operator in Iraqmarker.


IRR comprises of standard gauge. IRR has one international interchange, with Chemins de Fer Syriens (CFS) at Rabiya. The system runs from Rabiya southward through Mosulmarker, Bayjimarker, and Baghdadmarker to Basramarker, with a branch line from Shouaiba Junction (near Basra) to the ports of Khor Az Zubair and Umm Qasrmarker, westward from Baghdad through Ramadimarker and Haqlaniya to Al Qaim and Husayba, with a branch line from Al Qaim to Akashat, and east-west from Haqlaniya through Bayji to Kirkukmarker.


The first section of railway in what was then the Ottoman Empire province of Mesopotamia was a length of the Baghdad Railway between that city & Samarramarker opened in 1914. Work had started northwards from Baghdadmarker with the aim of meeting the section being constructed across Turkeymarker & Syriamarker to Tel Kotchek and an extension northwards from Samarra to Baiji was opened in December 1918.

From 1916 onwards an invading British Military force brought narrow gauge equipment, firstly gauge and later gauge from Indiamarker to Southern Mesopotamia to construct various sections of line to support its offensive against the Turks. Britain defeated Turkey and Mesopotamia became a League of Nations mandate under British administration. In April 1920 the British military authorities transferred all railways to a British civilian administration, Mesopotamian Railways.

The metre gauge line from Basramarker to Nasiriyahmarker was the most important section constructed during the war in terms of its significance as part of later efforts to construct a national railway network. Soon after the end of World War I this was extended northwards from Ur Junction outside Nasiriyah up the Euphrates valley with the complete Basra to Baghdad route being opened on 16 January 1920.

The other section of metre gauge line built during World War I that had ongoing significance was that from Baghdadmarker East north eastwards to the Persian border. After the war the eastern end of this line was diverted to Khanaqin and the wartime built line north west from Jalula Junction was extended from Kingerban to Kirkukmarker in 1925.

In 1932 Iraq became independent from Britain. In March 1936 Britain sold Mesopotamian Railways to Iraq, which renamed the company Iraqi State Railways. Work resumed on the extension of the Baghdad Railway between Tel Kotchek on the Syrian frontier and Baiji. The through route was opened and completed on 15 July 1940. In 1941 the Iraqi State Railways PC class 4-6-2 steam locomotives were introduced to haul the Baghdad — Istanbulmarker Taurus Express on the Baghdad Railway between Baghdad and Tel Kotchek. From 1941 onwards the UK War Department supplemented ISR's locomotive fleets: the metre gauge with HG class 4-8-0's requisitioned from India and new USATC S118 Class 2-8-2's from the USA, and the standard gauge with new LMS Stanier Class 8F 2-8-0's and USATC S100 Class 0-6-0T's.

Principal railway routes in Iraq
In 1947 the Iraq Petroleum Company opened a branch at Kirkuk, which it operated with its own Hudswell Clarke 2-8-4T's from 1951. ISR opened a new metre gauge line from Kirkuk to Arbilmarker in 1949. A joint road & rail bridge was opened across the River Tigrismarker in Baghdadmarker in 1950, finally connecting the east and west bank metre gauge systems. ISR added new steam locomotives in the 1950s: metre gauge 2-8-2's from Maschinenfabrik Esslingen and Vulcan Foundrymarker and 2-8-0's from Krupp, plus standard gauge 2-8-0's also from Krupp.

In 1958 when Iraq's Hashemite monarchy was overthrown and a republic declared, ISR was renamed Iraqi Republic Railways. In 1961 IRR began to replace its standard gauge steam locomotive fleet with diesels from ČKD and ALCo. In 1967 several classes of steam locomotive were still in service on the standard gauge system, but these were replaced by further classes of diesel from Alstom, Montreal Locomotive Works and MACOSA. IRR did not begin to replace its metre gauge steam locomotives until after 1983.

In 1964 IRR extended its standard gauge network with a line from Baghdad to Basrah which opened for freight in 1964 and for passengers in 1968. It has since been extended from Shouaiba Junction to the port of Umm Qasr.

From 1980 until 2003 IRR suffered approximately one billion United States dollars' worth of war and looting damage.


IRR uses Soviet-style SA3 automatic coupler. In order to allow interchange with CFS and Turkish State Railways which both use screw couplers, IRR locomotives and most wagons are equipped with screw couplings and buffers. In Iraqi service the buffers do not make contact and the screw couplings hang down unattached. The railways in adjoining Saudi Arabia use American type Janney automatic couplers. There is currently no rail link planned to Saudi Arabia.

Towns served by railways

Iraq-Iran Railway Link

It was announced by director of RAI (Islamic Republic of Iran Railways) has that the Iranian section of the Khorramshahrmarker-Basrah railway project, currently under construction, will be completed by the end of (20 March 2009). Though the Iranian part of the railway linking Khorramshahr to Shalamcheh (in Basrah) will be finished by then, work on the Iraqi side is proceeding more slowly.

Also under construction are the Kermanshahmarker-Baghdadmarker line as a link with northern Iraqmarker.

Iraq-Syria Direct Railway Link

Syrian Railways had been extending a rail route from Deir ez-Zormarker Junction towards the modern Husaibah branch terminus on the Iraqi side of the border, which was built as a through station. The route follows the Euphrates river valley and Google Earth shows the route complete to within of the border, but requiring a major bridge across the river. This route would be more direct than the existing one via the border station at Tall Kushik.

Passenger Services

In about October 2008 a commuter service resumed between Baghdad Central and the southern suburb of Doura. There is a nightly service between Baghdad and Basra and a Fridays only pilgrims service to Samarra. In March 2009 a weekly service started between Baghdad and Fallujah. The Baghdad - Mosul line is almost ready for passenger services to resume. Transport Minister Abdul Jabbar Ismail said he hoped to extend the existing network of to between and but there were obstacles such as budget restraints and contract approvals.

Rail links to adjacent countries

See also


  1. Hughes (1981) p. 87
  2. Hughes (1981) p. 90
  3. Hughes (1981) p. 89
  4. Hughes (1981) p. 98
  5. The Restoration & Archiving Trust: Image no. br670530
  6. The Restoration & Archiving Trust: Image no. br670509
  7. The Restoration & Archiving Trust: Image no. br670616
  8. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670322
  9. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670607
  10. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670534
  11. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670436
  12. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670415
  13. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670614
  14. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670619
  15. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670305
  16. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670310
  17. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670502
  18. The Restoration & Archiving Trust, Image no. br670309
  19. Hughes (1981) p. 97
  20. Railway & Archiving Trust, Iraqi standard gauge railways (gallery of photographs from 1967)
  21. Railway & Archiving Trust, Iraqi metre gauge railways (gallery of photographs from 1967)
  22. "All Aboard the Baghdad Metro", Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov 2008
  23. "Iraq's Struggle to get railway back on track after neglect and war", The Times, 14 April 2009
  24. [1]

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