The Middle East Magazine Online… produced this article titled “GCC rail network project edges forward”
The concept of a high speed rail network linking the countries of The Gulf Cooperation Council is not a new one. Yet, despite, all the evidence that such a project would make sound economic sense, some countries are still dragging their feet.
The dramatic economic growth that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have witnessed in the last four decades has been paralleled by a surge in demand for a supportive infrastructure, including road, sea and air transport facilities. But it is becoming more evident that growth in metropolitan travel and economic exchange cannot be met by roads alone but necessitates a modern and effective railway network.
The project to set up a Gulf railway linking all six GCC countries was first approved at a GCC summit in 2009. A 2018 deadline to complete the work was set at subsequent meetings. Experts agree on the need for Gulf countries to invest in rail despite the financial and technological challenges because rail offers dividends on many fronts — economic and social — as well as in promoting sustainable development. “The Gulf rail project will entail significant investments across all member-states, given the lowered oil price impacting revenues of oil exports, but the benefits are plenty,” said Salvador Zarate, of A.T. Kearney, a US-based global management consulting firm. . . .
On 14 February 2016, Oman Transport Minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Futaisi said that his country may focus on developing its domestic railway network.
The reason put forward was that the uncertainty surrounding the regional project elaborate schedule of completion and most importantly start of service is too much to bear.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Oman planned to build a railway line linking the region from Kuwait to Oman along a 2,100 kilometre track.
GCC rail network project development under implementation was generally found ‘sluggish’ because of all the technical imponderables delaying and pushing completion of the project past the original target of 2017. The other reason and possibly the most influencing one is the recent low oil prices that are causing the governments to reduce their deficits.
Oman following the UAE national railway firm, having decided last month to suspend the tender of a plan of connection track inside the UAE with the borders of Saudi Arabia and Oman, made it difficult for Oman to award their own contract for a track, even though Muscat was believed to be ahead of other countries in designing its part of the network.
Oman to focus on domestic rail network
By Reuters 15 February 2016
Oman may focus on building a domestic rail network rather than connecting its railways to a regional system, because of uncertainty over when the regional project will go ahead, transport minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Futaisi said on Sunday.
Oman and the five other states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been planning to build a railway line linking the region. Tens of billions of dollars would be spent on about 2,100 kilometres (1,310 miles) of track.
But technical and bureaucratic delays have pushed expected completion of the project past the original target of 2017, and low oil prices are now dragging the finances of GCC governments into deficit, prompting them to slow construction plans in some areas. This has cast further doubt on the project.
Last month Etihad Rail, the state-backed firm building a railway network in the UAE, said it had suspended the tendering process for a plan to connect track inside the UAE with the borders of Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Futaisi told reporters on Sunday that the suspension of Etihad’s plan made it difficult for Oman to award a contract for its own track, even though Muscat was ahead of other countries in designing its part of the network.
“The picture is not clear yet regarding the regional rail project,” Futaisi said.
As a result, he added, Oman might change its focus from using its railways to distribute imports of goods around the region via the GCC network, to facilitating Oman’s seaborne exports of items such as raw materials.