By Neeraj Gangal
Long-planned 40-km causeway will be built and the cost may need to be lowered - Bahrain foreign minister
A long-planned 40-kilometre
causeway linking Qatar, set to host soccer's 2022 World Cup, and
the Gulf Arab island state of Bahrain will be built and the cost
may need to be lowered, Bahrain's foreign minister said.
"It is a must for both countries, even without the World
Cup," Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told reporters on
Thursday, without giving a time-frame for the project.
"This is one economic market, one economic zone that should
be well-connected, and the bridge is an integral part of that
... It is inevitable," he said.
Sources close to the project had said in June it would be
delayed due to escalating costs and political wrangling between
Qatar's successful bid to host the World Cup may have
provided new momentum. The bridge would help Qatar manage heavy
traffic during the World Cup as nearby Bahrain could absorb some
of the tourist inflow in its hotels.
Qatar plans to spend over $50 billion in infrastructure,
including roads, commercial projects and airports ahead of the
Sheikh Khalifa said pricing for the project, which will be
split 50-50, would need to be reviewed, as the initial cost was
set before the global economic crisis.
"The question is when, and at what cost ... It was initially
priced at $3 billion, but we are trying to bring it down."
A joint Bahrain-Qatar committee meeting will take place next
month, and progress will be discussed then, he said.
The causeway linking the world's top liquefied natural gas
(LNG) exporter Qatar to Bahrain was set to play a key role in
improving infrastructure connections between members of the Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC), but has been beset by problems.
Tensions were stoked last year over Bahrain's nominee for
Secretary General for the six-state GCC, Mohammad al-Mutawa.
Mutawa played an influential role in Bahrain's territorial
dispute with Qatar over the Hawar islands, which the World Court
awarded to Bahrain in 2001.
The bridge project, first announced in 2001, had already
been delayed in 2008 to change the project scope to include
trains, and late last year the countries said work would start
in the first quarter and be completed by 2015.
Contractors for the project include French group Vinci, German company Hochtief, Qatari Diar Real
Estate and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC).For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Anyone who has been in Bahrain during weekends surely noticed how packed the roads could get, a causeway linked to Qatar would only add to the issue.
The Road and highway network in Bahrain should and must be updated in order to accommodate the expected increase in traffic, anything less than that and Iâ€™m sorry to say that the outcome of the causeway to Bahrain will not be a positive one.
Nevertheless, Iâ€™m hoping for the best.