Middle East

Damascus restarts popular train service

People attend the relaunch of the train service in Damascus. Photo: 1 May 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dozens of people - many with Syrian flags - gathered for the relaunch ceremony

A narrow-gauge train has begun operating again in Damascus - in a reminder of better days in the war-torn Syrian capital.

The Rabwah steam train was very popular with city residents, taking them to the countryside at weekends. The service was stopped four years ago.

But with many areas now in rebel hands, the service will be limited to government-held areas of Damascus.

The civil war has killed more than 200,000 people since March 2011.

About 11 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

'Beautiful days'

The return of the train - with its distinctive yellow carriages and leather seats - drew dozens of people, including children, on Friday. Many waved Syrian nationals flags.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The train can hold 100 people, offering an alternative to Damascus traffic jams

"We decided to restart this train to give people hope again and put a smile on people's faces in Damascus," Zuheir Khalil, one of the officials behind the train's relaunch, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Nour, a student, told AFP: It's the train of my childhood... I want to ride it again to remember those beautiful days."

The train can hold 100 people, with tickets costing about $0.25 (£0.17).

Syrian officials say they hope the service will offer a transportation alternative to residents struggling with the capital's traffic jams.