>> This train station in Damascus has just reopened as the economy gets into gear in government controlled areas after seven years of war. Syrian army gains backed by Russian air power have extended government control over large swaths of the country. And people are taking journeys that were once unthinkable, says Reuter's Angus McDowell.
>> This is the first train out of this station in Damascus for six years. For all that time, there was fighting just over there, but now the station has opened up. And they hope, eventually, to reopen the line to run all the way to Aleppo, not just the very short route which is opening today.
But a scenic route it isn't, the view from the window the ruins of fighting around the capital. A reminder of the deadly cost of this returning calm, and that war still rages around Idlib in the north. Mohammed Abu al-Khair sends 25 buses a day from Damascus to Aleppo, an eight hour trip that until recently took two days..
> Now we can go everywhere, before we could only travel during the day so we would know where we were going. Now the bus can go to Aleppo day and night. People can now travel around the half of Syria under President Bashar al-Asad's rule and into the quarter held by a US backed Kurdish alliance.
Only the rebel held quarter is out of bounds.>> In a country that was earlier in the conflict fragmented into many different areas, making travel difficult, long, expensive, dangerous, and in some cases absolutely impossible, is now divided only into a small number of areas of control. And that means that, unlike in years past, people are now able to travel very freely and very easily from Damascus to the other main cities.
>> Conditions are still harsh even in Asad's territory. Whole towns lie in ruins and numerous check points control the roads. Of the international borders, only Lebanon's still works. But compared to the days when passengers risked being murdered, kidnapped or killed in clashes, times are clearly moving on.