Libya has embarked on an ambitious course to build an extensive rail system that will offer both passenger and freight service.

The major east-west route will parallel the coast, ultimately stretching 2,300 km from Ras Ejder on the border of Tunisia to Umm Sa’ad on the border of Egypt.

Separate contracts have been awarded to Russian and Chinese contractors to complete certain segments. Since 2008 RZD (Russian State Railway) crews have been building a 554-kilometer Surt-to-Benghazi segment, which involves four major stations and 24 minor stations. The project is expected to take four years at a cost of $3 billion.

Since 2008, China Railway Construction Corp. has been laying track westward along a 625- km segment from Surt, via Al Khums and Tripoli, to Ras Ejder. CRCC also has been awarded an 800-km north-south segment, which will be used to transport iron ore from the southern city of Sebha to a steel mill and port at Misratah. The project is expected to be completed in 2011. CRCC’s contracts are reported to total $2.6 billion.