Oman begins work on GCC railway

Oman begins work on GCC railway :Oman is poised to start work on the first phase of a railway project which is part of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) railway network, government officials told Al-Shorfa.

The prime contractor will be chosen by the end of this year with work set to begin in the first quarter of 2015.

The 2,244-kilometre project has been divided into nine sections, with one section extending from Muscat to the UAE. The line also will reach the southern parts of the sultanate at Port of Duqm and Port of Salalah and will extend from there to the Yemeni borders.

Freight and passenger trains will operate on the new line, with a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour for freight trains and 220 kilometres per hour for passenger trains.

The overall cost of the project is expected to reach more than five billion Omani riyals ($13 billion).

“The first part of the project will be implemented from al-Bruraimi governorate to the city of Sohar on the Gulf of Oman,” said Abdul Rahman al-Hatami, head of the railway project at the Ministry of Transport and Communication.

This includes laying 170 kilometres of line, he told Al-Shorfa, with the remaining stretches of the network to be built over four years.

Work is under way to clear the proposed route, and this is expected to happen through the first quarter of 2015 with the start of the early stages of the project, he said.

The Omani government will finance the project at the infrastructure level and the authorities will look into subcontracting the operational part of the project to the private sector or to a joint public-private partnership, al-Hatami said.
Social and economic benefits

Sultan Qaboos University sociology teacher Majdi Abd Rabbu said the forthcoming railway network will have social as well as economic benefits.

“Arab tribes are linked together by many ties, and you might find a tribe whose members are spread across several countries as is the case in Oman, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain,” he said. “The railway network will make it easier for these tribes to reach out to each other and strengthen their connection.”

“Job opportunities will be available to young people in more than one country in the GCC,” he said, noting that with train journeys of just a few hours, Omani workers will be able to commute to jobs in Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain.

“The GCC train will revive trade amongst GCC countries and will make the region suitable for logistical services,” said economist Ahmed bin Saeed Kashouf.

“Sea ports in Oman will adapt to developments in the trade industry in Dubai, for example, while goods will be safely transported from Saudi Arabia to its neighbours, which means lower prices and increased sales to consumers,” he said.

“The volume of trade amongst the GCC countries is still quite modest […], and the railway network will solve this problem so that investors and individuals can ship goods to and from other countries at a lower cost and higher levels of safety and specific arrival times,” he added.

Improved rail transportation services also will reduce traffic accidents along the Gulf’s international highways, where traffic accidents cause numerous deaths each year, Kashouf said.

Oman begins work on GCC railway

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