Muscat: The transport ministers of Oman and other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states are scheduled to meet for preparing a timeframe to complete a planned multi-billion dollar railway project across the region.
“We need to finalise a timeframe for reaching an agreement on completing the project. So that all countries do their work at the same time,” said Dr Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Futaisi, minister of Transport and Communications here on Wednesday. He was responding to a question posed at a panel discussion on Oman’s economic outlook at the fifth Oman Economic Forum here on Wednesday.
Some concerns had been expressed about linking railways of different GCC states, after the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE’s) national railway company Etihad Rail suspended the tendering process for the second stage of the project, which was supposed to link the Khalifa and Jebel Ali ports with the Saudi border at Ghweifat and the Omani border at Al Ain.
The minister said Oman will evaluate a proposal to start the Oman National Railway within the country to transport minerals from mining areas to ports, rather than connecting it to other GCC states.
However, Oman is in favour of all GCC countries working at the same time so that the railway can be connected for a pan-GCC network. The GCC countries will have to unify their railway systems and technical specifications.
The Sultanate has an ambitious 2,135-kilometre (km) long national railway project, which has been divided into nine segments for easy implementation. In fact, the country is in the advanced stage to award the 207-km long Sohar-Buraimi segment, which is the first segment to be developed.
Al Futaisi said that each GCC country should build their portion of the GCC railway. “But there was a challenge among countries in the pace at which the project was being implemented. Some countries started, but some others did not follow the design. So this was a challenge for Oman,” noted the minister. The Sultanate has reached the stage of awarding the first segment of railway project for development.
“Even if Oman finishes its part, it cannot connect because other countries have not started their work.”
The railway project will strengthen economic diversification of GCC countries, besides encouraging social ties among GCC states. “The movement between the GCC states will be easier.”
The minister said the Sultanate has made tremendous progress in developing the country’s infrastructure, mainly roads, ports and airport facilities.