Over $200 billion will be invested to develop about 40,000 kilometres of rail network across the GCC, according to Oman’s Minister of Transport and Communications.
Speaking at the opening of the GCC Rail and Metro Conference, Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Salim Al Futaisi said that rail development provides an ideal opportunity to attract companies and manufacturers to the region.
“Our challenge will not just be in how to ensure the success of executing these projects from a technical and operational point of view, but on how to exploit the socio-economic potential of these massive investments so to ensure the multiplier effect into our economies,” he said.
Gulf countries are currently developing a massive rail network – dubbed GCC Rail- that will connect the six GCC members in order to accommodate growing intra-region trade and to reduce fuel consumption.
The project, estimated to be worth $15.5 billion, is scheduled to be completed by 2018. Each of the GCC states will work on an individual link before the common network is connected.
“The GCC rail project is one of a kind, ambitious and complex in nature,” said Ramiz Al Assar, Resident World Bank advisor for the GCC.
“It will link the six member states as a regional transport corridor, further integrating with the national railway projects, deepening economic social and political integration, and it is developed from a sustainable perspective.”
Aside from the mega rail project, many GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE are also developing rail links for commercial purposes.
Saudi Arabian Railways (SAR) is building a massive 5,000km long rail network for transporting freight.
“Already 1,400kms is operational, with the ability to transport phosphate and bauxite from mines to the manufacturing facilities at the port in Ras Al Khair,” said Rumaih M Al Rumaih, CEO of SAR.
“Since the line became operational, we have transported more than 6.5 million tons of phosphate. The benefits of using the railway are tangible – we’ve saved 70 per cent of the fuel that would have otherwise been consumed by trucks.”
Meanwhile, the UAE is investing $25 billion in its railway infrastructure, accounting for 10 per cent of the entire MENA region’s investment in the sector.
The Emirates’ Dhs40 billion Etihad Rail project, stretching 1,200 kilometres, is currently in the testing and commissioning phase with operations scheduled to start soon, according to officials. The project’s first phase will see a 266-kilometre long rail network running from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais.
Oman too is planning to build a 2,244 kilometre (1,395 mile) rail network that will link the town of Buraimi, bordering the UAE, to six major settlements in the Sultanate including the industrial city of Sohar.