Alstom signs preliminary deal for Baghdad metro
French infrastructure firm Alstom signed a preliminary agreement with the Baghdad provincial government on Monday to build a metro to ease traffic congestion in the war-wracked Iraqi capital.
No final price has yet been set for the project, which will initially include a 25-kilometre (15-mile) line that serves 16 stations, and is expected to take up to five years to complete.
"This is very important," Gian Luca Erbacci, Alstom's managing director for South Europe, Africa and the Middle East, told reporters after signing the deal with Baghdad Governor Salah Abdulrazzaq.
"This accord allows us to take the necessary steps to reach a final agreement," which he said would be reached in the coming months.
"The goal is to provide the city of Baghdad with a very modern skytrain that is in line with the latest technology available."
Erbacci declined to specify how much the project would cost, saying only that it would be completed "four to five years" after the final contract is signed.
Baghdad currently suffers bumper-to-bumper traffic most mornings as residents lack alternative means of travel, and the city's numerous checkpoints and blast walls, in place to ensure security, slow down vehicle movement.
The capital has been choked with cars since sanctions were lifted and customs duties slashed following the US-led invasion of 2003, causing a spike in vehicle ownership that has overwhelmed Iraq's decaying infrastructure.
The latest plan for a metro was initially mooted in November 2008, when Baghdad municipality invited bids for plans to put together a city-wide metro system.
But the idea originally dates back to the late 1970s. Had it been built then, it would have been the first urban railway in the Arab world. Instead, the plans were shelved at the start of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Iran.
© 2011 AFP