By Staff writer
GCC assistant secretary general for economic affairs says legal framework for project will be completed by end of 2016
Plans to open a 1,200km transnational rail network across the Gulf region will go ahead despite delays, a senior official was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
GCC assistant secretary general for economic affairs Abdullah Bin Juma Al Shibli told delegates at the Middle East Rail Conference that the technical specifications and the legal framework of the cross-border rail network would be completed by the end of 2016.
In comments published by Gulf News, he said: "1,200 kilometres of railway will be established... Some members have already completed their phases. The GCC has pledged ongoing support to this project through partnerships with the private sector.”
Last month, the UAE’s Minister of Infrastructure Development, Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, said the project’s 2018 completion date was unrealistic.
The passenger and cargo railway will run from Kuwait down the Gulf coast and through the United Arab Emirates to Oman, with lines connecting to Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's interior and Red Sea coast.
The project has suffered from technical and bureaucratic delays since its announcement last decade.
A sustained slump in oil prices has dragged the finances of governments in the region into deficit, prompting them to slow construction plans in some areas.
In January, state-backed Etihad Rail suspended a tender to build the 628 kilometre second phase of a rail network within the UAE.
This would have extended an existing 264 kilometre line transporting sulphur from Abu Dhabi's interior to the coastal industrial city of Ruwais, as well as to the Saudi and Oman borders and other parts of the UAE including downtown Dubai and Abu Dhabi.