Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saddam's luxury train to return to service

Saddam Hussein's private luxury train, equipped with chandeliers and Italian-made curtains, is being put into public service to help ease a train shortage, Iraqi rail officials said.

The 23-carriage French-built train was kept in a secret location for three decades and shielded from the widespread looting that followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Starting in September, the train will ferry passengers between Baghdad and the southern city of Basra, said Karim al-Tamimi, a spokesman for Iraq's rail system.

He said the train, which also has three locomotives, was moved recently from a rail yard in Baghdad to the city's main railway station.

Saddam used the train only once in the late 1970s, shortly after becoming president, for a trip to Basra, said Khadum Abdul-Wahid, the head of the Basra railway branch.

The train's carriages are air-conditioned and equipped with TV screens, officials said. Windows are draped with Italian-made curtains and chandeliers hang from the ceilings.

Some compartments served as offices, including a library, while others were furnished as living rooms. The train also has several restaurants and luggage compartments.

It was not immediately clear whether some of the expensive fixtures would be removed before the public uses the train. Tamimi said the train is in good shape and only requires simple maintenance.

Currently, the Baghdad-Basra train runs only once a day, with three carriages. Tamimi said railway officials are now considering reinstating train service between Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul.

Iraq has suffered a train shortage because of years of UN economic sanctions and looting following the US-led invasion.

No comments: