GCC rail project work study to start shortly
The much talked about Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway project, linking GCC member countries, is expected to cost $25 billion, said an informed source at the GCC General Secretariat.
The 2,117-km-long network, starting in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, is likely to be completed by 2017, the source said. Tenders for an engineering study for the railway will be called in the first quarter of this year.
The source said tenders would be invited from specialized consultancy firms in order to conduct the study within the next 18 months. An independent authority would be established to manage the multi-billion dollar project, which is expected to create about 40,000 jobs.
The building of the railway lines will start in 2012 after the completion of engineering studies.
Mohammad bin Obeid Al-Mazroui, GCC assistant secretary-general for economic affairs, said up to five companies would be short listed to carry out the railway project.
The GCC official indicated that either a single company would be chosen for the execution of the project or a number of companies would come together to do it as part of a consortium.
The project would change the transportation pattern in the GCC. Train services across the six GCC states will facilitate movement and travel of GCC citizens as well as expatriates and boost regional trade.
An initial study proposed the laying of two railway lines, the first being 1,970 kilometers long, stretching from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, and from there to the UAE and Oman. The second line would be 1,984 km long, running from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and ending in Oman.
A report by Kuwait Financial Center in December said GCC countries are planning to invest a total of $109 billion on rail projects in the next 10 years in order to solve traffic congestion issues.
The largest of the GCC members, Saudi Arabia has 1,018km of railway ahead of its neighbors. Yet the freight and passenger services that currently operate between Riyadh and Dammam are a small part of a much bigger future.
The Kingdom's North-South Railway Project (NSR) is already well underway and is expected to be completed this year. Constituting of a single track about 1,800km long, the project will only handle freights of phosphate and bauxite from mines at Zubairah and Jalamid to processing plants in Jubail.
On the more passenger-orientated front, the East-West Railway project (Landbridge) aims to provide connections between Jeddah, Dammam and Jubail. The project will consist of two tracks; the first of which will cover 449km and handle only passengers, while the second will stretch 556km and be devoted exclusively to freight.
Saudi Rail Organization recently issued tenders for the first construction contract on the $6 billion Haramain high-speed rail link between Makkah and Madinah. The project is aimed at providing transport for Umrah and Haj pilgrims traveling between the two cities and Jeddah.