Upon a meeting with Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos on Friday, a Chinese delegation to Lebanon has laid out a plan to revive Lebanon’s railways.
The construction would be a part of a larger effort to connect transit between neighboring cities, like Aleppo and Damascus, but the connection in Lebanon would be between Beirut and Tripoli.
“We are ready to support Lebanon with our technical knowledge. … But we are more interested in connecting Beirut to Tripoli, Tripoli to Aleppo, Aleppo to Damascus, and so on…,” Eliana Ibrahim, president of the China Arab Association for Promoting Cultural and Commercial Change, said via The Daily Star.
The railway would be a large investment initially, and Chinese investors are primarily concerned with the return that this investment would generate.
“20 percent we care about the investment, but 80 percent we care about the return,” Ibrahim explained via The Daily Star.
The potential railway would serve as a means for public transport, but as Ibrahim also stressed, revenue would need to be generated from cargo as well as daily commuters.
Minister Fenianos stated via The Daily Star that public transport has a “central role for economic and social development in Lebanon to facilitate the affairs of citizens and goods within Lebanon and its Arab neighbors.”
There have also been other interests for China in Lebanon, as Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with a delegation led by Wang Kejian, the Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon. The discussion surrounded investments in energy and included members from the China Energy Group.
“This expresses the willingness of the Chinese side, both at the level of government or companies, to cooperate with the Lebanese side in the field of economic development for the mutual benefit of both countries,” Kerjian said via The Daily Star. “We hope to reach agreements soon,” he continued.
Built by a French count in 1895 during the Ottoman ruling, Lebanon’s railway extended 408 km, connecting Beirut and Tripoli to Damascus (Syria) and Haifa (Palestine). Lebanon’s civil war brought the operation to a stop, and the train stations to be abandoned.
Today, after decades of disregard, there are finally talks of resuscitating Lebanon’s railway. The economic potential for such developments would be helpful in boosting the Lebanese economy given the current deficit.
That in addition to the railway promoting the ease of public transportation from long distances across Lebanon.
Yet, what will develop from these meetings still remains uncertain.