GCC Railway: Gulf States to discuss 6-nation rail connectivity project at April meeting

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BE2C2 Report — The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will discuss the likelihood of constructing a regional rail network by 2021 at a meeting of regional ministers in April, a United Arab Emirates minister said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The regional bloc made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar last year reached an agreement in principle to delay the 2018 completion date until 2021.

“Commitment is there. Maybe by April we would know once we have the GCC ministerial meeting,” UAE Minister of Infrastructure Development Abdullah Belhaif al-Nuaimi told reporters on the sidelines of press conference at the ministry’s offices in Dubai.

“The date might fluctuate,” he said of the project.

In November, al-Nuaimi said the new 2021 deadline was a “moving target.”

The 2,177-km (1,450-mile) passenger and cargo network stretching through all six Gulf states from Kuwait to Oman has faced technical and bureaucratic obstacles, and stalled as state budgets tightened because of low oil prices.

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The broader perspective of the project future entails extending the network to Jordan and Syria, linking the Gulf with Europe and Asia via Turkey, a report said.

The UAE has suspended further construction of its project while Oman has shifted concentration to building a domestic network linking the ports of Salalah, Sohar and Duqm.

Bahrain has said it would not connect its network to a neighboring state, Saudi Arabia, until at least 2023. It later plans to connect to Qatar.

The meeting between regional ministers who oversee transport and infrastructure portfolios would “most likely” take place in Saudi Arabia, al-Nuaimi said.

According to Abdurrahim Naqi, the secretary general of GCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, there is the possibility of linking the GCC railway with King Salman Bridge/Causeway that would connect Saudi Arabia with Egypt. “Officials working on the causeway are studying possibility of this linkage,” he said, according to Railway Pro.

The GCC rail network and infrastructure project is expected to provide 10,000 jobs in addition to bringing in  investments worth USD250 billion, according to the GCC General Secretariat quoted by Railway Pro.

Nada Abu Al Samh, a financial analyst at the GCC General Secretariat, said that the establishing of infrastructure is estimated at USD15.4 billion, including the cost of two new causeways, and the network in Kuwait will be connected with the rail network that links all GCC countries and will end at Muscat.

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BE2C2 is a business unit of Irshad Salim Associates  and publishes reports, news, infographics, analytics and analyses based on available data and related information from sources readily available on the web and in the public domain.

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