Iraq has approved plans to build a high-speed train network stretching from its Southern Basra oil hub to the Turkish border in the North, according to an official statement. 

The Italian engineering services company PEG will prepare feasibility studies for the project, which involves the construction of one of the largest railway networks in the region, the Transport Ministry said in a statement carried by the official news agency. 

The Ministry said it has already signed a contract with PEG and that the project would be launched after the 2023 state budget is endorsed by the cabinet and parliament. 

“We will kick off this strategic project after the 2023 budget is approved so the necessary allocations will be made,” the statement said. 

It provided no details of the rail networks apart from saying rail tracks would be constructed away from residential areas. 

The network will start from the Faw Grand Port which is under construction in South Iraq and stretch towards central and North Iraq, it said, adding that high-speed trains would operate along with conventional passenger and freight trains. 

Officials said last week thethat 1,200-km rail networks across the OPEC producer would be launched in 2023 and would largely facilitate trade and passenger movement across the border to Turkey and Europe. 

(Writing by Nadim Kawach; Editing by Anoop Menon)