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Baghdad To Build Elevated Monorail, Subway

One of Baghdad's busy intersections in November 2009.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials say foreign firms will be invited to take part in a tender to build an elevated monorail and subway lines in Baghdad to help reduce traffic in the congested capital, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Baghdad Mayor Salih Abdel Razzak said the monorail in particular will help unsnarl a city notorious for its traffic jams.

Iraqi railways Director Rafil Yussef Abbas told RFI that the planned monorail line, whose cost is estimated at $3 billion, should be 36 kilometers long and have 13 stations in Baghdad. He said it should be able to carry 23 million passengers per year.

Issmat Amir Jabbar, an adviser to the transport minister, told RFI that the monorail train will be 8-10 meters above ground.

Abbas said the tender for the monorail will be held "soon" but did not specify a date. Construction is expected to take several years.

He said the monorail project is technically easier and cheaper to build than the subway.

Hakim Abd al-Zahra, a spokesman for the Baghdad mayor's office, said French Systra is advising on the plans.

Zahra added that bids for the subway project will be sought after Systra presents a final report. He said two underground lines are planned, the first about 18 kilometers long with 20 stations and the second 21 kilometers long with 21 stations.

Mayor Razzak said the monorail will connect major districts of the capital on both sides of the Tigris River, from the sprawling Sadr City in eastern Baghdad to the more affluent western area of Mansour.

A Baghdad resident, Salima Mohsen, told RFI that her children often miss the first hour of school due to the traffic and said she hoped that the officials' plans "translate into action on the ground."

Iraq planned to build a subway network in Baghdad in the 1980s but the project was aborted due to the Iran-Iraq war.