Rail transport in Libya

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There have been no operational railways in Libya since 1965, but various lines existed in the past. An extensive system is now being developed and under construction.[1]


Map of the colonial railway in Libya before the 1960s
Arrival of the first locomotive in the harbour of Tripoli, around 1912
Littorina passing Tripoli Central Railway Station in the 1930s
Janzour Railway Station in 2016

The Kingdom of Italy built in 400 km of railways in Libya, with a gauge of 950 mm (3 ft 1 38 in). A network centred on Tripoli was opened from 17 March 1912 as part of the Italian occupation campaign. This extended from Tripoli 120 km west to Zuwara, 100 km south to Gharyan, and 10 km east to Tajura.

A 750 mm (2 ft 5 12 in) (later 950 mm) gauge railway was built east from Benghazi. The main route to Marj, 110 km long, was opened in stages between 1911 and 1927. Benghazi also had a 56 km branch to Suluq, opened in 1926. In summer 1941, the Italians started to build a Tripoli-Benghazi railway, but their defeat in World War II meant that work only progressed a few kilometres.[2]

Military extensions of some 40 km were made from Marj towards Derna in World War II. This was the final line to close, at the end of 1965.

During World War II, the 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) gauge Western Desert Extension railway was built from a junction 10 km east of Mersa Matruh in Egypt, to assist in the Allied defence of the area, and later the Allied advance across North Africa. The coastal railway had reached Sidi Barrani by October 1941 and Tobruk by December 1942, 640 km (400 mi) west of El Alamein.[3] The 125 km Libyan section, west of Sallum, on the Egyptian border, was removed following its closure on 20 December 1946, but the Egyptian Railways Sollum line still sees occasional freight.


Beginning in 1998,[4] the Libyan government has been planning for a 3170 km 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge) network.[1] A line parallel to the coast will eventually form part of a North African link between Tunisia and Egypt.[4] The section from the border with Tunisia at Ras Ajdir, then via Tripoli to Sirte was under construction and was planned to open in 2009. China Railway Construction Corporation has contracts to start work in June 2008 on a 352 km route between Sirte and Khoms, to be finished by 2013.[5] The east-west line will be double track.

A second line will run 800 km from iron ore deposits at Wadi Shati near Sabha to the steel works and port at Misrata from 2012.[5]

A third line will run 554 km from Sirte to Benghazi in the East. In October 2007, RZD submitted a feasibility study for the project, and in 2008 signed a contract to begin construction, which was planned to take 4 years to complete.[6] Work began on 30 August 2008.[7] In August 2010, RZD awarded Ansaldo STS and SELEX Communications a contract to install signalling, telecoms, power, security and ticketing systems which is expected to take three years. Ansaldo STS and SELEX Communications are also working on signalling on new lines between Sirte and the Tunisian border, and the route to Sabha.[8]

A trans-Saharan line is also planned, running south to Niger.[4][9]

Construction has ceased during the Libyan Civil War.[10]

As of March 2012, the plans have been delayed until further notice[11]

In February 2013, the pre-revolution railway project has been approved for resumption by the government.[12][13]

Rolling stock[edit]

On 10 June 2007 a contract was signed with American General Electric Co. for supply of locomotives and training of Libyan nationals in operational and maintenance work. The contract includes the import of spare parts and technical assistance. The first shipment will arrive Libya by mid-2009.[needs update] Libya has bought one IC4 diesel multiple unit from AnsaldoBreda for evaluation. It is parked at 32°49′43″N 13°6′41″E / 32.82861°N 13.11139°E / 32.82861; 13.11139 until a network is operable.






  • March - First 14 km of 554 km long Russian Railways Sirte - Benghazi track in place. The total track laying is expected to take four years.[18]


  • March - China Railway Group suspended work on the 3 projects valued in total at $4.24 billion with $3.55 billion of the project yet to be finished due to the rising violence levels in the Libyan Civil War.[19]


  • February - Talks started between RZD and Libyan authorities to resume construction[20]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Earthworks 60% complete on first section of Libyan network". Railway Gazette International. 2001-01-01.
  2. ^ Italian colonial railways in Libya (in Italian)
  3. ^ Neillands, Robin (2004). Eighth Army: From the Western Desert to the Alps, 1939–1945. John Murray. ISBN 978-0-7195-5647-0.
  4. ^ a b c "Libya: Railways" Europa World Year Book 2004 Europa Publications, London, volume 2, page 2667, ISBN 1-85743-255-X
  5. ^ a b "Libyan links back on track". Railway Gazette International. 2008-02-22.
  6. ^ "Russian Railways in Libya to Build Railway between Surt and Benghazi" (Press release). Russian Railways. 2008-04-18.
  7. ^ a b "Work starts on Libyan railway". Railway Gazette International. 2008-09-01. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  8. ^ "Contract signed for Surt - Banghazi line signalling". Railway Gazette International. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  9. ^ Gardner, Frank (9 December 2001) "Libya unveils railway project" BBC News, accessed 12 March 2011
  10. ^ Staff (5 March 2011) "Work halts on railway network in Libya built with Scunthorpe steel" Scunthorpe Telegraph archived here by WebCitation
  11. ^ Rail network shunted off agenda
  12. ^ Libya awaiting Chinese team for railway talks
  13. ^ Railway will be resumed
  14. ^ "Locos for Libya". RailwaysAfrica. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  15. ^ "Benghazi Extension". RailwaysAfrica. 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  16. ^ English_Xinhua
  17. ^ "Contract placed for next stage of Libyan network". Railway Gazette International. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  18. ^ First 14 km of Libyan rail network in place
  19. ^ Wong, Fayen (2 March 2011). "China Railway suspends Libya projects, evacuates workers". Reuters.
  20. ^ http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/02/05/russians-in-tripoli-talks-about-resuming-sirte-benghazi-railway-project/

Further reading[edit]

  • Robinson, Neil (2009). World Rail Atlas and Historical Summary. Volume 7: North, East and Central Africa. Barnsley, UK: World Rail Atlas Ltd. ISBN 978-954-92184-3-5.

External links[edit]