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Tue 5 Feb 2008 03:03 AM

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Kuwait unveils $11bn rail project

Plans for 500km national network and Kuwait City metro are set to secure cabinet green-light.

Kuwait is planning to build an $11 billion national rail network that will include a metro system for its capital, a Kuwaiti official said on Monday.

Around 500km of rail will be laid at a cost of 1.8 billion dinars ($6.59 billion), and will form part of a planned network across the Gulf region, said chairman of the Kuwait Overland Transport Union Saeed Dashti.

Plans include a 245km line to run from the country’s northern border with Iraq to the frontier with Saudi Arabia in the south, with links to the main airport and port, Dashti told a conference organised by the Meed business intelligence unit.

In Kuwait City, where traffic clogs roads during rush hour, a four-line, 171km metro is planned at a cost of 1.3 billion dinars, Dashti said. The project would be 65% above ground on an elevated track, and 35% underground, he added.

If it goes ahead, the rail network will be 50% financed by the government, and 50% through the private sector. Several companies would be set up to undertake different parts of the projects, with IPOs offered in each.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009 for completion in 2017 if the plans, currently under review by the cabinet, are approved, said Dashti, adding “We are hoping for the final green light for the project by May”.

With Gulf countries witnessing annual population growth of between 5 to 10%, cities are increasingly facing congestion, forcing governments to spend on improving infrastructure.

Gulf leaders in 2004 gave the go-ahead for a regional rail network at a cost of $5.7 billion, extending from Oman to Kuwait, passing through the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Dubai is expected to complete the first phase of a two-line $4.4 billion metro extending about 70 km by September 2009, and Gulf cities including Riyadh, Mecca, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, are also planning rail systems.

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