GCC official says ambitious project going ahead despite setbacks
An ambitious rail project spanning six Arabian Gulf countries is still going ahead despite a series of delays and setbacks, a senior official has said.
Technical issues, bureaucratic delays and tender cancellations have cast doubt over the project and its original completion target of 2017.
Low oil prices are forcing GCC government budgets into deficit, prompting them to slow down construction plans in some areas, casting further doubt over the GCC-wide rail project.
But Abdullah Bin Juma Al Shibli, GCC assistant secretary general for economic affairs, on Tuesday told delegates at the Middle East Rail Conference in Dubai that the project will go ahead.
He said the technical specifications and the legal framework of the GCC-wide network would be ready by the end of this year, Gulf News reported.
“1,200 kilometres of railway will be established… Some members have already completed their phases,” he was reported as saying. “The GCC has pledged ongoing support to this project through partnerships with the private sector.”
The planned GCC railway would span from Kuwait with Oman, linking all six member states.
But a setback came in January when Etihad Rail, which is responsible for developing the UAE’s railways, said it had suspended tendering for stage two of the network, which would connect the UAE with Saudi Arabia and Oman.
And it emerged last month that Oman may focus on building its domestic rail system rather than connecting to the wider GCC network due to uncertainty looming over the planned regional project.
The future of the region’s rail network is likely to be discussed at the next meeting of GCC transport ministers, which might occur in October, the Omani transport minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Futaisi told Reuters in February.