Minister: GCC railway “unlikely” to open in 2018by Paromita Dey on Feb 25, 2016
The deadline to open the GCC rail network in 2018 is "unrealistic" and the six Gulf countries will meet in Riyadh next month to discuss a more feasible launch date, said the UAE's infrastructure minister.
"We know that 2018 is not realistic," said Abdulla al-Nuaimi, UAE minister of infrastructure development and chairman of the Federal Transport Authority, on the sidelines of the launch ceremony of Middle East Rail 2016.
"The ministerial counterparts of all the Gulf countries met in Doha in late 2015 to re-think the timetable. We've asked all of them to come up with a realistic programme," said Nuaimi.
He said the plans had not been modified, but declined to comment when asked what would be a more realistic opening date or whether he had any doubts that a pan-GCC train network would come into existence.
GCC transport ministers will meet next month in Riyadh for further discussions, said Nuaimi.
The 2,100 kilometre passenger and cargo rail network supposedly aims to span the six GCC nations, running from close to the borders of Iraq in Kuwait via the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia, with links to Qatar and Bahrain, into the UAE and to Oman.
In January this year, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Rail had suspended the tender process for stage two of the project, which was due to take the line west to the UAE’s border with Saudi Arabia and east to Dubai and Oman.
Stage Two involved the construction of a rail network in Abu Dhabi that was supposed to connect to the Saudi border at Ghweifat and the Omani border at Al Ain, and also vital areas such as Mussaffah, Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali Port in Dubai.
That prompted Oman's transport minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Futaisi to announce that the Sultanate may focus on building a domestic rail network rather than connecting its railways to a regional system, because of uncertainty over when the regional project will go ahead.