The line was first announced by Thierry Mariani, a French junior transport minister, at the 2011 Paris Air Show on 24 June 2011. He said that French company Alstom and the Iraqi government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding a contract to build the proposed line. Alstom will conduct exclusive talks with the Iraqi government for a year. During the announcement of the deal, Mariani also said that he planned to travel to Iraq to discuss the project later in the year. According to an Alstom spokesperson, the company planned to seek a contract that would cover the design, construction and operation of the line.
The completed line would be roughly 650 kilometres (400 mi) long, with endpoints in Baghdad and Basra, with intermediate cities including Karbala, Musayyib, Najaf, and Samawah. The line would be built for a top speed of 250 km/h (160 mph).