$250 billion Gulf Rail project will go ahead said GCC secretary general at the Middle East Rail Conference at the 10th edition of the Middle East Rail exhibition.

The GCC railway project being built at a cost of $250 billion with the ultimate goal to connect the Gulf countries will go forward not as planned though but as announced back in February with 2018 completion unrealistically set.

The exhibition covered a space of 18,000m² with over 9,000 international visitors including 600 VIP government officials attending.  It kicked off on Tuesday 8 March, and featured keynotes, panel discussions and research sharing.  It also shed some light on project updates with key government departments, railway operators and construction companies exchanging views and on mutual concerns.

All concerns are mostly about governments spending in the GCC states being reduced because of the declining oil prices.  But notwithstanding that, a UAE official in his opening address in a conference at the exhibition said that Gulf the States must “ensure we have rail networks of high quality: reliable, safe and secure — and enhance road services as well.”

“1,200 kilometres of railway will be established,” he said, adding that the GCC was committed to completing the project in accordance with international best practices.” Before adding “Some members have already completed their phases.”

Joerge Scheifler, Siemens’ senior executive vice-president for Middle East advised companies to be patient.

“In a few years we do see a shift away from individual transport to public transport,” said Scheifler, who unveiled Siemens’ Gulf-specification Hesan AlKhaleej high-speed intercity passenger train at the conference.  “Dubai is a very good example of that.  There are many other countries and cities in the region which try now to follow this project landscape; Metro Riyadh is in full swing, Doha is affording itself a metro, Kuwait is looking at a Metro and Abu Dhabi in the future might also have one.”

“This project landscape very clearly shows how this trend is now shifting towards a proper public transport, not only taxis and buses but also mass transport.”

While he declined to inform on any revised timescale for the Gulf Rail project nor speculate on a possible timeline for a recovery in oil prices, he said, “In our opinion the best medicine to counter that is to be patient, hang in there, don’t apply a hit-and-run policy.  We are very much sticking to that.  Our local organisation is reflecting this: long-term commitment in almost all of the Gulf countries.”