Friday, January 14, 2011

Gulf to spend $100 bln on rail

Gulf Arab states are spending more than $100 billion on rail projects across the region as they tackle poor public transports networks and growing populations.

The six oil and gas producers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) seek to create a similar model to Europe's high-speed rail system, with plans to extend the estimated 1,940 kilometre network even to Yemen in the South of the Arabian peninsula and link it by 2017.

Following is an overview of the different projects:


Saudi Arabia is spending an estimated $25 billion on its rail network, adding 3,900 km of tracks through three major projects.

The so-called Saudi Landbridge project includes a 950 km line between capital Riyadh and the Red Sea port of Jeddah, as well as a 115 km link between the industrial city of Jubail and Dammam, the oil hub on the Gulf coast.

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Another project is the North South Railway linking Riyadh via Qassim, Hail, Al-Jawf, to Al-Haditha, with branches to Ras Al-Zour and Jubail to bauxite and phosphate mines. The line will be mainly used for minerals, but general freight and passenger transport is also planned.

The high-speed Haramain Railway project will link Islam's holiest cities Mecca and Medina to the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, a key entry point for millions of pilgrims, to relieve traffic congestion on the roads.

German transport group Deutsche Bahn, Italy's Astaldi and British firm WS Atkins form parts of six consortiums bidding to build four stations along the 450 km railway.

China Railway Construction Corp said in November it expected to lose about 4.15 billion yuan ($623 million) on the metro light rail for pilgrims.


UAE's Union Railway plans a $11 billion and 1,500 km railway project across the UAE estimated by 2017.

The project will be phased over several years. In the end, the railway will connect the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat city in the West and Oman via Al Ain in the East.

For a detailed map click on:, the state-owned rail operator, with 49 percent.

The network will integrate the oil and natural gas hub of Ras Laffan in the north with the refinery town of Mesaieed in the south, and a high-speed link between the new Doha international airport and the city's centre.

Construction will run until 2026, which includes freight, passenger trains and a metro.

A long-planned $3 billion bridge linking Qatar with Bahrain has been put on hold and the project team scaled back, sources close to the project said, amid escalating costs and increased political tension.

The 40-kilometre causeway linking gas exporter Qatar to the island kingdom of Bahrain was set to play a key role in improving infrastructure connections between GCC members. Qatar also wants to build a bridge connection to neighbour Saudi Arabia via a 40 km causeway - one of the world's longest - to Bahrain.

But the long-planned $3 billion bridge been put on hold and the project team scaled back, sources close to the project said in June.


Bahrain said in 2009 it would study a $8 billion railway project stretching over 184 km, including a mix of light rail trains, monorails, trams and other systems.

But these investments were part of plans to link Bahrain and Qatar with a bridge, a project which is stalled due to political tensions between the two neighbours.


The non-OPEC member's 500 km railway system will connect ports, airports and free zones and is expected to generate a revenue of about $250 million in its first year operation, a finance ministry official said.

The project is expected to be completed in 2017 and the government plans to award construction projects in three phases.

It will build a passenger and freight service, which will make part of the regional link. Possible extensions into the capital Muscat via a metro system are also considered.

Transport and rail companies such as Bechtel, SNCF, China Railway and Hyundai have shown interest in the pre-qualification bids for contracts.


Kuwait said in 2008 it was planning an $11 billion rail network that will include a metro system for its capital.

A 245 km line will run from the northern border with Iraq to Saudi Arabia in the south, with links to airport and sea port, the Kuwait Overland Transport Union said. (

In Kuwait City, where traffic clogs roads in rush hours, a four-line, 171 km metro is planned costing 1.3 billion dinars.

Construction was initially scheduled to start in 2009 for completion in 2017.


Yemen said last year it would launch a $3.5 billion rail project as part of plans to upgrade infrastructure in the war-torn country.

The 2,500 km passenger and cargo network will run from the Saudi border along the Yemeni coast, passinf through the main port of Aden, to Oman, where it will join the network linking the six GCC countries.

The government had said bidding for the main 2,000 km coastal line had started in July 2010 and that it was in talks with several railway firms to build the tracks.