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Lebanon Railways

Started by Taman Tun, January 11, 2021, 08:58:08 AM

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Taman Tun

For train spotters only. This is an interesting article from The Times:-

Lebanon's railway is stuck in its tracks
Richard Spencer, Rayak, Bekaa Valley

It is a tough time for Lebanon, as everyone knows, but there is one sector of government that is keeping things on track. The national railway administration has managed to protect itself from budget cuts, despite political and financial crisis. With August's port explosion in Beirut another deep blow to its transport infrastructure, it was good to learn last week that the administration's spending rose from 13 billion Lebanese pounds (£6.5 million) to 16 billion last year.

Now all Lebanon needs is a railway.

In many ways, the country is a train spotter's paradise. Aficionados used to visit just to gawp at disused stations in picturesque hillside towns, and locomotives rusting in abandoned yards. Souvenir shops sell stylish advertising posters from the 1930s for railway holidays in termini in exotic destinations: Haifa, Damascus, the Hijaz.

A regular service, though, from Beirut to Tripoli, 50 miles up the coast? No, it does not have that.

The continuing existence of a railway administration, with 300 staff, in a country whose railways were all destroyed in a civil war that ended three decades ago is a paradox unique to Lebanon. It is a country whose bureaucracy exists to provide opportunities for sectarian political patronage as much as services like railways.

The paradox is terribly bad for Lebanon. The German ambassador, Andreas Kindl, was moved last week to unusually acerbic public comment by the budget's railway clause, saying that "public transport could be a great blessing considering how much time we all spend every day in traffic jams".

As local journalists pointed out, having the frugal Germans mock you when you are trying to get the international community to bail out your bankrupt economy is not a good sign.

Lebanon is not the only place in the Middle East going backwards, in transport terms. A century ago, railways spanned the region, with famous names like the Berlin to Baghdad line, or the Hijaz Railway. Now, there are hardly any.

The wars that destroyed them were rarely the locals' fault. Lawrence of Arabia started blowing them up, and was followed by many of the 20th century's empires.

The failure to rebuild them, however, does rest with local governments. As campaigners point out, restoring the network that connected Beirut not just to Tripoli but also Damascus and Aleppo would take pressure off crumbling, traffic-jammed roads and assist Syria's rebuilding.

They have even put together proposals. "Our talented engineers have created a master plan," says Elias Maalouf, who helped to found Train Train Lebanon, one pressure group. "But there is no money."

Elsewhere in the region the situation is even stranger. There is no shortage of cash in the Gulf, and a high-speed line that connected Kuwait to Sharjah via Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai would save thousands of flights each week.

Last week Etihad Rail, the national UAE rail company, began tracks for stage two of a national network, but that is for freight only.

Why is this? As with much in the Middle East, the short-term advantages of inertia outweigh the long-term gains of investment.

Monopoly licences to import Mercedes and Toyotas have always been a favoured way of ensuring regime support from key businessmen. Railways are also real estate, and selling off or renting out railway property is a good way of earning money, and rake-offs.

Mr Maalouf lives in Rayak, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which was once the Middle East's most important junction, connecting Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo, and Haifa — which is why it was Lawrence's first victim. In the Seventies, it was made an army base by Syria during the civil war.

Now its shunting yard, where weeds poke through steam engines with Mount Hermon as a backdrop, is particularly photogenic.

But the mountain is also the Syrian border, and so hopes for a railway revival now founder on Lebanon's political breakdown, US sanctions, and the threat of a war between Iran and Israel that would drag in Hezbollah.

As Mr Maalouf says, the enemy of the train was once political. Now it is geopolitical.
If the old only could, if the young only knew.

thaiga

Boy my eyes read that wrong at first glance, i thought it read Lesbians railway is stuck in its tracks
Thanks for the post T.T. are you ready for a ride on the Lebanon Mason & Monroe Railroad in this old clip

Lets go  :wave ... (Video recorded August 2012)

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

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