The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)  countries, including the regional organisation’s Secretariat General and rail authority, are continuing their efforts to finalise the last stages of the railway plan that will link the region, according to the GCC Secretary General Jassem Al Budaiwi.

He made these remarks during the Middle East Rail Exhibition and Conference held last month (May 15-16) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the UAE. The premier event for rail innovation, technology and strategy saw the participation of a number of decision-makers in the Arab transportation sector, dignitaries, and CEOs of key rail operators from across the region.

Al Budaiwi stated that the GCC member states, General Secretariat, and the Gulf Rail Authority are following up on implementing the GCC railway project, which is achieving tangible results, as some member states have finished building parts of the project within their territories.

He added: “In this context, I am delighted to thank and congratulate the United Arab Emirates on completing the railway construction within its territory and connecting it with the border of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

During his speech, Al Budaiwi emphasised that the leaders of the GCC countries were keen to support the process of joint Gulf action to enhance cooperation, aiming to create an applicable action framework that meets the ambitions and aspirations of the people of the GCC states.

The GCC Rail Network is expected to extend a total length of 2,177 km and connect all six GCC member states. Initially estimated to cost $250 billion, it is now projected to have a price tag of $300 billion. Originally scheduled to be completed by 2023, this deadline has been pushed back several times and it is now estimated that the project will not be completed until at least 2030.

The UAE is the only country to have completed its railway for freight services (see Page 12). Late last year, Saudi Arabia announced the completion of two freight railway projects connecting the Eastern and Northern networks and an internal railway network for Jubail Industrial City.

The 124-km railway linking the Eastern and Northern railway networks through Jubail Industrial City connects King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam, King Fahd Industrial Port and Jubail Commercial Port in Jubail, and Riyadh Dry Port in Riyadh to support and enhance freight movement. The kingdom has also opened a 69-km railway network connecting industrial facilities in Jubail Industrial City to King Fahd Industrial Port and Jubail Commercial Port. Plans have also been initiated for a rail network in Neom (see Page 9).

In line with plans to link Saudi Arabia with the other GCC states, the Saudi Railways Company and the Saudi General Transportation Authority are reported to have appointed France’s Systra to conduct a feasibility study for a high-speed railway link between the kingdom and Kuwait. Systra was last year selected to conduct a feasibility study on a similar 550-km link between Riyadh and Doha.

The rail link between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, will be installed within the proposed King Hamad Causeway project, which will run parallel to King Fahd Causeway.  The new causeway will include a four-lane road and two rail tracks.

Oman and the UAE have signed an agreement to cooperate on the construction of a 303-km section of the railway between Sohar and Al Ain.  The project is estimated to cost $3 billion.

In Kuwait, bids are due to be submitted by the end of this month (May) for a study and design for the first phase of the country’s passenger and freight rail network. The 111-km track is expected to extend from Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia to Shaddadiyah.

The GCC Rail Network is expected to boost free movement in the Gulf by providing unhindered travel from Kuwait to Oman. The railway is also expected to boost intra-GCC trade by providing freight transport services.