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Office: (44) (0) 5603 676623  |  Independent Communications Consultancy based Westminster, London SW1

Digital Communications Index: Syrian Railways

MENA Railways Digital Communications Index: Syria

المؤسسة العامة للخطوط الحديدية السورية
Chemins de Fer Syriens
Syrian Railways

All images on this page ©CFS Syrian Railways unless stated. 

Introduction

I hesitated about including Syrian railways in this series of country reviews. Given the years of cruelty, destruction and unutterable misery in Syria over the past decade, during its devastating civil war, and now economic collapse to add to the woes, what use is a post about the digital communication of its railways?

Well, amazingly, CFS runs some trains on two surviving lines. Regular readers will know that for many years, I’ve considered that the railways of a country reveal a great deal about the country itself. Glance at the railway and you’ll see a microcosm of the wider country. That’s because railways bring together many aspects of life, society, business, engineering and technology. I go into more detail here in the post that introduces the Digital Communications Index.

Crowds greet the first train from Aleppo to Jibreen in 2017 (©Ruptly) Click to enlarge.

If some trains are running then how is CFS telling passengers about them, and about what else is going on? So I’m including Syria because I’m curious about what’s happening; because some people are trying to do professional work in almost impossible circumstances; and for completeness. From experience I know ordinary people try to clean up the mess and normalise their lives in even the most abnormal situations, and that quiet work is often forgotten by academics talking about grand, sweeping political theories and journalists/charities reporting the awful humanitarian disaster. 

Despite all this, according to the criteria for the MENA Railways Digital Communications Index, CFS only scores 1/12, purely because it has a website. I could find nothing else, and wonder whether the social media platforms are missing because they’ve never existed or because they used to exist but there are sanctions blocking them. I can only wish the people of Syria good fortune in the future and hope they can rebuild their lives and their country very soon. 

1. Is there a website?

Yes, there is a website in Arabic, with a partial English version. So score 1 point. 

Even on the website there are many broken links and some pages are blank. While there is a full set of social media icons, none of these lead anywhere. CFS does publish contact phone numbers and email addresses, but it’s uncertain whether anyone would respond, or whether they would be able to tell you anything.  

2. Is the website ‘alive’?

CFS Syrian Railways Arabic Homepage (click to enlarge)

The website dates from 2017 and someone was writing good, frequent news posts for the first year from September 2017 until September 2018. There are reports and photos of lines being rebuilt and reopened but nothing new for nearly 2 years. With the many broken links, the website is less useful than it looks at first glance. 

For example the website gives timetables for the trains CFS operates. But it is not clear whether these trains actually do operate every day, or stopped the day after the timetables were put on the website in 2018. There are some news reports about the trains, particularly the reopening of the Aleppo-Jibreen service (two train pairs per day). 

For information, the timetables published on the website are as follows:

  • Train 281 Depart Tartus 0630 / Arrive Latakia 0747
  • Train 282 Depart Latakia 1500 / Arrive Tartus 1622
  • Train 21  Depart Tartus 0700 / Arrive Latakia 0807
  • Train 22 Latakia to Tartus (no times given)
  • Train 651 Depart Aleppo 0715 / Arrive Jibreen 0746
  • Train 652 Depart Jibreen 0815 / Arrive Aleppo 0846
  • Train 653 Depart Aleppo 1430 / Arrive Jibreen 1501
  • Train 654 Depart Jibreen 1530 / Arrive Aleppo 1601

Here are two short clips from Russia Today and Ruptly without commentary that give the atmosphere of this service around the time of reopening in early 2017. 

 3. Is there an app? No

4. Can you buy tickets online? No

5. Is there live running information? No

6. Is there a Twitter account? No

7. Is there a Facebook page? No

8. Is there a YouTube channel? No

9. Is there an Instagram account? No

10. Can you subscribe to a newsletter? No

11. Is there evidence of campaigns? No

12. What is the overall engagement like? None since 2018.

Conclusion

It’s sad to see a system that was thriving and active until the civil war reduced to such a sorry state, like the country itself. So for the purposes of the MENA Railways Digital Communications Index, CFS scores just 1/12. Let’s all hope we see improvements soon. 

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