GCC Rail Network is 'unlikely to be completed by 2018'
The GCC Rail Network is unlikely to be completed by 2018 as planned, the UAE’s infrastructure minister has admitted, confirming what many industry observers had expected since the oil price plunge.
The six GCC states involved in building the regional rail network will meet in Riyadh next month to discuss a more realistic launch date for the ambitious project, Abdulla al-Nuaimi, UAE minister of infrastructure development and chairman of the Federal Transport Authority, told a news conference in Dubai.
The 2,100 kilometre passenger and cargo railway will connect Kuwait and Oman, running down the Arabian Gulf coast and through the United Arab Emirates when complete. Additional lines will connect to Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's burgeoning rail network, providing a rail link to the Red Sea.
The project, which is expected to cost in excess of $40 billion, has suffered from technical and bureaucratic delays since its announcement last decade, with the completion date already shifted to 2018 from a year earlier.
"We know that 2018 is not realistic," said al-Nuaimi. "We've asked the ministers to come up with a realistic programme.”
The slump in oil prices of more than 70% from late 2014 has dragged the finances of governments in the region into deficit, prompting them to slow construction plans in some areas.
In January, state-backed Etihad Rail suspended a tender to build the 628 kilometre second phase of a rail network within the UAE.
Earlier this month, Oman's transport minister warned his country may change its railway plans to facilitate Oman's seaborne exports, rather than using its trains to distribute imports via the Gulf network.