By Stanley Carvalho
Official says users of the bridge, set to complete in 2015, will have to pay toll.
Construction of a 40 km causeway that would connect gas exporter Qatar to the Gulf island state of Bahrain will start in the first quarter of 2010, an official said on Sunday.
"We are evaluating the final design and cost of the project and expect construction to start early next year," Jaber al-Mohannadi, general manager of the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Foundation, told a conference in Abu Dhabi.
Construction was initially scheduled to start in 2009, but the addition of rail lines delayed the project.
"Project completion will be 2015," he said, but declined to give the estimated cost of the project because the figure was yet to be finalised.
Contractors selected to carry out the project include France's Vinci and Germany's Hochtief AG, Mohannadi said.
The latest official cost estimate of the causeway, one of the longest in the world, stands at $3bn to be shared between Bahrain and Qatar. Users of the bridge will have to pay a toll, Mohannadi said.
Jassim Ali, a member of the financial and economic affairs committee of Bahrain's parliament, estimated the project to cost $4-$5bn.
"Qatar will probably be providing some soft financing to Bahrain" to help cover its share of the cost of the project, Ali said.
Qatar, the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, has one of the world's highest per capita gross domestic product, while Bahrain is a small oil producer with limited public finances.
The rail tracks on the causeway would be part of a planned train network that will connect the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which also include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.
The 1,940-km GCC rail network will cost $20-$25bn as Gulf Arab states plan to spend more than $100bn on various rail projects to improve public transportation.
Qatar and German rail and logistics group Deutsche Bahn signed a $23bn deal that provides for building a passenger and freight railway.
Bahrain in April launched a new port that it hopes would help it become a shipping hub for the northern part of the Gulf. (Reuters)
Bridges and tunnels are essential appurtenances in a logistics infrastructure that adds velocity of movement of people and goods in motion. Like the well known Bahrain Causeway between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain - this will be another engineering marvel to add aesthetics to the land and sustain intraregional trading in GCC, We had one full seminar on this theme at www.gust.edu.kw/glf where the feasibility of bridge for Gulf of Aqba was discussed at the university. www.cowi.com GUST GLF Seminar on May 22, 2007 - Connecting the world together: Bridges and Tunnels endorsed by the Royal Embassy of Denmark in Kuwait