Muscat: The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is planning to form the GCC Railway Authority to coordinate the implementation of the 2,200-kilometre long integrated railway project for the region.
The GCC secretariat is planning to finalise plans for the authority in the forthcoming meeting of ministers of transport of Gulf countries by the end of September and another meeting of ministers of finance on October 4 in Bahrain. "We hope that we will succeed to advance (the formation of) the GCC Railway Authority," Dr Ramiz Al Assar, World Bank – Resident Adviser, Gulf Cooperation Council Secretariat General (GCC-SG), said, while addressing the third annual Oman Land Transport Summit.
He said all member states are extremely supporting the formation of the authority, which has the mandate from GCC summit.
"Now the project is well under implementation stage and facing a lot of challenges and therefore, it requires this fundamental body," he added. The 2,200 km-long GCC railway line will start from the city of Kuwait in the north, connect all Gulf cities and end in Muscat.
Dr Al Assar said the biggest challenge faced by GCC states in implementing an integrated railway project is the institutional issue. There is a need for a regional training academy for railway sector. "We are looking at on the job training now. We are now discussing with several countries for sending staff, who will go for training programmes for six to 18 months for working in railway operators, consultants or contractors and then come back."
Referring to the progress in implementing the regional railway project, Dr Al Assar said most of the member states have completed detailed engineering design with few expected to finish it by the end of this year or early next year. "Construction work is expected to start from end-2014 or early 2015.
The project is expected to be operational by the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019," he said, adding; "Saudi Arabia has already started the construction work of 150 kms of pan-GCC railway project, while the UAE is moving ahead with implementation."
Dr Al Assar said the member states have to agree on certain common guidelines and minimum requirements to ensure that GCC states can achieve the objectives.
He also noted that the GCC-SG is developing a regional master plan schedule for all member states, taking into consideration the scheduled implementation of individual states.
Dr Al Assar said the member states have decided to go for a decentralised approach. "However, we all agreed that it should be looked at as a single regional integrated and interoperable GCC railway."
He said the investment for railway project in GCC countries is estimated at $200 billion, which include metro projects of member countries. These metro railway projects are coming up in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
He also noted that the GCC countries have decided to go for a standard speed of 200 km per hour, which is upgradable in case of a growth in passenger traffic. The railway project has the full support from all governments.
The GCC railway is planning to link Saudi with Bahrain through a causeway for which a feasibility-engineering study will be conducted soon. The Oman Land Transport Summit, organised along with IQPC Middle East and Global Exhibitions & Conferences LLC (GEC), enabled delegates to learn about the latest land transport projects, in addition to methods to reduce maintenance costs, increase profits, integrate all modes of transport, reduce the number of incidents and build higher quality infrastructure projects.