In pictures: Iraq's newly revived railway linking between Baghdad and Fallujah
Iraq has 2,000 kilometres of railways and its network was connected to Istanbul in 1940. The country plans a major revival of its network. For now, the line between Baghdad and Akashat on the Syrian border only works as far as Fallujah, says Taleb Jawad Kazem, deputy director general of Iraq's railways. But the lines to Basra at the southern tip of the country, and to the Shiite holy city of Karbala in central Iraq, never stopped operating. And work is under way to reopen the links to Baiji, Tikrit and Samarra to the north of Baghdad, adds Kazem.
The newly revived railway between Baghdad and Fallujah snakes across the western Iraqi desert, through a landscape of burned-out tanks, abandoned cars and collapsed buildings. For the last month, Captain Imed Hassun has taken pride in once again driving the route between the capital and the former Islamic State group stronghold. Before the jihadists' rise, Hassun and his co-driver steered the Baghdad-Fallujah route during some of the most turbulent times in Iraq's history. They had even kept trains running during much of the combat between American forces and Sunni militia in the mid 2000s, and the sectarian clashes that preceded the rise of IS. So far, he has successfully pushed his new Chinese-built diesel train to 100 kilometres (60 miles) per hour. But he dare not go faster, as the rails have only just been brought back into basic working service by a team of dedicated employees. The train leaves Fallujah every day at 6:45 am to travel the 65 kilometres to the capital, before returning at 3:00 pm, a time judged to best suit civil servants and students. An average of 250 travellers make the return journey each day," says Abdel Mutalleb Saleh, transport manager for Anbar province. Iraqi passengers walk through the hallway of a cabin on the train from the capital Baghdad to the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, about 70 kilometres west, on August 19, 2018. In 2016, Iraq spent $137 million (118 million euros) on 12 new trains from China. But there is a long way to go before the network can host the 72 daily train journeys that were made in the heyday of Iraq's railways, before the UN slapped sanctions on the country in the 1990s.