The construction work on a railway line connecting Iran’s southwestern Shalamche border town with Iraq’s Basra city kicked off on Saturday in the presence of top officials of the two countries, Anadolu reports.
The ceremony at the joint border in southern Iran’s Khuzestan province was participated by Iran’s Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia Al-Sudani.
Shalamche, one of the key border crossings between Iran and Iraq, is located 15 kilometers west of the Iranian port city of Khorramshahr and 20 kilometers from southern Iraq’s Basra city.
The 32-kilometer railway stretch between two border cities is expected to be completed in 18 months, officials said.
Iran will be carrying out the work of demining and construction of a bridge over the Arvand River in Basra while Iraq will carry out the pavework and track-laying work of the project for which it has earmarked $200 million.
Speaking at Saturday’s ceremony, Mokhber termed the long-pending project as “strategic” for the two countries that he said would transform the region.
Besides connecting the two neighboring countries and boosting economic cooperation between them, he said the railway line will also contribute to the international transport and transit routes.
Mokhber said the Shelemche-Basra railway line will also connect holy shrines in the two countries, referring to Imam Reza shrine in Iran’s Mashhad city and shrines in the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf.
Pertinently, millions of Iranians and non-Iranians have crossed through Shalamche and other joint border crossings in recent weeks to travel to Iraq for the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage.
The railway construction project was on the anvil for many years. The two countries first signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on it in March 2011, which wasn’t followed up.
In 2014, Tehran and Baghdad inked another MoU for the construction of this railway line without making any significant headway until 2021 when the two sides took it up again.