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Updated: Monday, October 3, 2011 News Source: Gulf Media
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are pushing ahead with multibillion dollar railway projects, and key contracts are set to be awarded soon as the energy-rich Gulf states seek to boost local infrastructure to meet rising demand. Qatar is pressing ahead to build a $35bn countrywide railway network ahead of the soccer World Cup in 2022. The 350km network, which includes a metro in Doha, a country-wide rail line and a light rail is scheduled to be complete by 2020, said Geoff Mee, deputy CEO of Qatar Rail. “The railway is important for trade between Qatar and Saudi and the rest of the Gulf and once you have it, everything is possible,” Mee said. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is expanding its railway network by adding 300-plus kilometres of railway lines after commissioning the 1,400km North South Minerals line earlier this year. The new lines comprise three projects—the Ras al Khair to Jubai, the Jubail to Dammam line and an internal Jubail network. Tenders for the first of these projects will be launched in two weeks, while tenders for the remaining two will be out in December and early next year, Rumaih al-Rumaih, chief executive of Saudi Rail (SAR) told reporters at the Meed rail conference. “So far we have signed 17bn riyals ($4.5bn)of contracts for our railway projects, from stations to wagons, locomotives and buildings since we started and more will be awarded,” he said. “Expansion is a must to meet our transport needs for freight and passengers as well as for creating an integrated Gulf railway.” SAR also plans to award the construction contract for six passenger stations for the North South Minerals line in the fourth quarter, he said, adding passenger operations will start in 2014 between Riyadh and Al-Haditha on the Jordanian border. The line now serves freight operations carrying 10,000 tonnes in 104 wagons. Gulf states, under pressure to meet the infrastructure demands of growing populations, have announced multibillion dollar plans in recent years. The UAE will start construction work on its $11bn federal railways projects before the year-end, with contracts to be awarded within weeks,” Etihad Rail chief executive Richard Bowker told the conference. The first phase of the project will link the port of Ruwais to Shah and Habshan in the western region of Abu Dhabi. The first train will run in 2013, Bowker said, adding phase two will connect Abu Dhabi to Jebel Ali in Dubai while the third phase will connect the northern Emirates. A planned Gulf-wide railway network is in the design stage, with construction to commence in 2014, al-Rumaih said. Meanwhile, a Qatar Arabic daily said transport ministers of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries will hold a consultative meeting in Doha on October 21 to finalise the arrangements for beginning the field work for the Gulf Railway project.