Mega rail network brought on track as new landmark in Gulf

11:12, October 03, 2009      

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Oil-rich Gulf Arab states have brought on track an eye-catching project, this time not amazing skyscrapers, but a mega railway network that would enhance economic integrity in the world's largest oil exporting region.

The long-awaited rail network linking the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was approved at a leaders' summit in 2004 and is expected to kick off construction in 2010 or 2011.

Initial studies of the project was finalized and approved by GCC leaders, the bloc's Assistant Secretary General Mohammed Obaid Al-Mazroui told Kuwait's state news agency KUNA on Tuesday.

If everything goes smoothly, the network, running around 2,000 km from Kuwait-Iraq border to Oman, would be put into operation in2017, the official added.

The total cost of the railway is estimated at around 25 billion U.S. dollars, which would be shared among Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

DOMESTIC RAILS ON AGENDA

In addition to the interconnected rail network, members of the GCC are also stepping up efforts for domestic lines to upgrade mobility in a region that mainly relies on road and air for decades.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, is the only Gulf Arab state to enjoy a rail link. But the transport was confined to the route between the capital city Riyadh and the eastern city of Dammam.

The kingdom has planned to spend billions of dollars in extending its domestic rail network and add new lines among major cities including Mecca, Medina and the Red Sea resort of Jeddah.

The UAE, which boasts the eye-catching Palm tree-shaped island and several seaside skyscrapers, was reluctant to be lagged behind.

In early September, Dubai's launch of the first urban metro in Gulf was among the focus of the world's media reports several days in a row.

That would be on top of the UAE's ambition to start the construction of a over 1,000 km railway network by the end of 2010.

Neighboring Kuwait also has been mulling over the construction of a domestic railway in efforts to solve rush-hour traffic jam due to a rapid population growth.

Qatar has brought on agenda a comprehensive national railway system with a high-speed link from the capital city Doha to Bahrain across the planned causeway as a part.

The emirate's media said in September preparations have started for the construction work on one of the five rail networks it plans to build over the next decade.

Oman and the island state of Bahrain also envisage their first passenger and freight rail links in the next few years.

Established in 1981, the GCC is a political and economic alliance that holds around 40 percent of the world's oil reserves and pumps around 16 million barrels of crude oil per day.

Years of soaring oil prices in the international market, which peaked a record of 147 U.S. dollars per barrel last year, brought huge revenues to the six member states.

The large amount oil income in pocket enable them to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure, real estate and other sectors.

Source: Xinhua
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