Le Monde Diplomatique has a piece about transportation in Lebanon and the possibility of getting the railway back up and running along with ferries or water taxis:
Government and independent transport strategists seek solutions; but Lebanon is in debt to the tune of some $55bn – one of the largest per capita public debt rates in the world – so enormous, publicly-funded projects aren’t feasible. Strategists need to be creative and look for cost-effective solutions. The minister of economy and trade, Mohammed Safadi, has thought of returning to square one: the rail infrastructure of the Ottoman period. Though rusted and overgrown, much of the disused rail network still exists and the land the railway ran on is still technically government property.
As part of a larger development plan for Lebanon, Safadi is proposing to renovate the coastal branch of the line, linking Beirut to Jounieh, Jbeil and Tripoli in the north and to Saida and Sour to the south. From this railway line, roads will connect with inland population centres in the mountains, and beyond them in the Bekaa valley. “The railway will in time help Lebanon become one single market from south to north and east to west,” said Antoine Constantine, an advisor to Safadi. “It will enable the decentralisation of industry which is currently clustered around Beirut, and it will spread a much larger economic power to the rest of the country.”
The piece then continues:
But this is where the project may fail: tracts of the line have been built over illegally since it was put out of commission, and while in law the government can re-appropriate the land, many politicians or their cronies have business interests in the numerous coastal resorts that sit on the line. In Lebanon’s cautious system of consensus politics, such interests impact on the kind of legislation Safadi’s project requires.
Of course, a train line from Tripoli to Tyre through Byblos, Jounieh, Beirut and Saida along with a line connecting Beirut and Zahle and Damascus would make perfect sense. It would cut commutes, decrease pollution, help business outside the capital and generally be a godsend.
All that said, I’ll believe it when I see it.