Sultanate might use railway system to facilitate sea exports
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, it was reported.
Oman and the five other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations have been working towards the ambitious 2,117km-long GCC railway linking all six member states.
Technical and bureaucratic delays have however pushed the expected completion of the project past the original target of 2017. Low oil prices are forcing GCC government budgets into deficit, prompting them to slow down construction plans in some areas, and casting further doubt over the rail project.
This announcement has made it difficult for Oman to award a contract for its own track, transport minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Futaisi told Reuters. This is despite the fact that the sultanate was ahead of other countries in designing its part of the network, he added.
“The picture is not clear yet regarding the regional rail project,” he said. As a result, Oman might shift focus from using its railways to distribute imports of goods around the region, to facilitating its seaborne exports instead, al-Futaisi said.
“We are connecting the ports, as planned, but we might be utilising the railway for promising sectors such as mining. So instead of the initial plan of importing via Oman’s ports and then using the GCC rail project, we might start with exporting what we have in Oman.”
The future of the region’s rail network will be discussed at the next meeting of GCC transport ministers, which might occur in October, he noted.