Oman reconsiders participation in 2,117km GCC Rail

The Sultanate's transport minister said rail efforts could be realigned to benefit Oman's domestic economy due to lack of clarity about the regional rail network

Oman is reconsidering its involvement with the GCC Rail project.
Oman is reconsidering its involvement with the GCC Rail project.

Oman is reportedly reconsidering its efforts towards the planned GCC rail network. 

The country may instead focus on constructing its domestic rail network, owing to uncertainty over when the regional project will proceed, transport minister Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al-Futaisi said. 

Worth $15.4bn, the GCC Rail project will span 2,117km across the region.

However, technical and bureaucratic delays have reportedly delayed the development's completion date past its original target of 2017. 

Furthermore, low oil prices are contributing to a slowdown in government funding towards large-scale projects, including the GCC Rail. 

Last month, Etihad Rail suspended the tendering process for Stage 2 of the UAE's railway network.

The state-backed firm, which is behind the construction of a new UAE railway network, is reviewing options for the timing and delivery of the project's second phase, according to a company statement.

Stage 2 of Etihad Rail involves the construction of a network in Abu Dhabi, connecting the Emirate's borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman – as well as connecting other areas within the UAE.

Futaisi said the suspension of Etihad Rail's plans made it difficult for Oman to award a deal for its own track, despite being ahead of its GCC counterparts in designing its part of the overall network. 

"The picture is not clear yet regarding the regional rail project," he said. 

Therefore, he continued, Oman would consider realigning its focus to using its rail system for its seaborne exports, instead of distributing imports of goods around the region through the GCC network. 

"We are connecting the ports, as planned, but we might be utilising the railway for promising sectors such as mining," Futaisi added, according to Reuters.

"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 minister said the rail network's future might be discussed when GCC transport ministers hold their next meeting, most likely in October. 

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