By Andy Sambidge
New research shows Saudi Arabia leading GCC spending with projects worth $31bn
A total of $156bn worth of rail projects are either underway or in the pipeline in the Middle East and North Africa, according to new research.
In the GCC, Saudi Arabia is leading the way with investment totalling $31bn, followed by Kuwait ($14bn), the UAE ($14bn), and Qatar ($13bn). However Iran ($34bn) is the MENA region's biggest spenders.
The research, published ahead of the MENA Rail Projects Conference in October, said the MENA region is expected to allocate more than $250bn worth of investments in various rail projects over the next three years.
The region has one of the lowest density rail networks in the world, with just under 34,000 km of track over a landmass of 15 million sq km.
The boom in the construction of railway infrastructure is expected to double the track network to 67,000 km and create huge opportunities for local and international businesses - from consultancy and design services to track, rolling stock and communication systems.
Out of the $156bn rail projects planned or under way in the region, nearly 29 percent are currently being built and 12.5 percent are currently being tendered.
For new work in the near future, different markets will dominate as smaller rapidly growing countries develop urban rail schemes.
Qatar currently had $8.5bn of railway construction contracts out to tender, Iraq has $2.5bn and Tunisia has $2.1bn.
The most significant scheme to start construction over the coming year will be in Doha, which recently invited 18 consortiums to bid for five packages on its proposed metro network that will alleviate congestion in the Qatari capital and transport football fans across the city during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The tenders attracted international interest and more than 60 local and international groups attempted to prequalify to bid for construction work.
Edmund O'Sullivan, chairman, MEED Events, organisers of the conference, said: "With governments across the region investing heavily in rail mega projects, the vision of the early railway pioneers to link cities across the Middle East and beyond is finally being realised."