New timeline for 2,177-km GCC rail project
As part of an ambitious plan to go ahead with the mega GCC railway project in a more realistic manner despite weak global oil prices, GCC transport ministers will hold their meeting here next month.
A realistic date of completion of the GCC-wide rail network, while defying the recessionary trends, will top the agenda of the ministerial meeting.
“The transport ministers will focus on how to kickstart the 2,177-km GCC railway project, how to fund it and what should be the real date of completion,” a reliable source told Arab News.
He said that the GCC ministers’ meeting is significant keeping in view the fact that the railway project, as announced earlier, will not be possibly completed by 2018.
In fact, “the 2018 self-imposed completion date has been looking increasingly unrealistic due to the difficulty in getting the six countries to coordinate their plans for the project,” said a report published in the latest issue of the ‘International Railway Journal’, the world’s first globally distributed monthly magazine for the railway industry.
The report said that the GCC railway plan may be delayed or exacerbated by the huge reduction in the price of oil, which has reduced the amount of funding available, and the decision by the UAE’s Etihad Rail early this year to suspend the second phase of its national railway network.
This suspension has also prompted an Omanis to rethink their priorities in railway sector.
Moreover, a project study is underway for the GCC rail project.
The project study will end in March this year, and then the discussion between the GCC countries will follow to execute the plan.
There have previously been concerns that the GCC rail might be delayed due to varying levels of project progress reported by each member state.
Some of the GCC member states have not achieved the desired level of progress on the project.
Kuwait is one of them. Recently, Kuwaiti minister of parliament Faisal Al-Kandari recommended Kuwait follow a system similar to that followed internationally, and within the Gulf, where a unified body tenders, awards, and manages rail projects.
Al-Kandari added Kuwait must strive to catch up with its GCC neighbors, most of which have “started the implementation of the railway project to link the entire Gulf.”
According to Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al-Nuaimi, UAE’s public works minister, GCC transport ministries at a meeting in Doha last year to become “more realistic” in delivering the network.
“We know that 2018 is not realistic,” he said in Dubai this week.
Al-Nuaimi says the UAE will now “reconsider” its plans for the national railway network, even though the scope for the regional network has not changed.
It is scheduled that the route of the GCC train project will start from Kuwait via Dammam in the Kingdom to Bahrain through the proposed causeway to be built parallel to the King Fahd Causeway.
The GCC train would also link Qatar with Bahrain via the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway to be established between them, and from Saudi Arabia through Al-Batha to the UAE (Abu Dhabi-Al Ain) and then to end up in Oman across Sohar to Muscat.