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GCC insists multi-billion dollar rail network will go ahead Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

GCC insists multi-billion dollar rail network will go ahead

Dubai already has its own pioneering public trasnsport tram and metro systems [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 March, 2016

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The Gulf Cooperation Council has announced it still banks to embark on an ambitious project to build a region-wide railway network, despite massive budget deficits caused by low oil prices.
An ambitious $250 billion rail network will go ahead in the Gulf region, the GCC's assistant secretary general for economic affairs announced on Tuesday.

The UAE-led initiative will run down the Gulf coast from Kuwait, through Saudi Arabia, to the UAE and Oman, with branches linking Bahrain and Qatar.

The plan is expected to boost economic opportunities across the area while providing an alternative to air or sea travel for both passengers and goods.

But low oil prices have caused massive government deficits among GCC projects making many question the viability of the project.

"Twelve hundred kilometres of railway will be established," said al-Shibli.

"Some members have already completed their phases," he said. "The GCC has pledged ongoing support to this project through partnerships with the private sector."

Despite previously identifying the 2018 completion date, Abdullah Belhaif al-Nuaimi, UAE minister of infrastructure and development, suggested this self-imposed deadline would be difficult to achieve.

Etihad Rail, the UAE-owned developer of the project delayed it second phase when it was forced to cut its workforce by 30 per cent due to the slump in oil prices.

No deadlines were given at the conference however technical specifications and the legal framework for the rail network are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The announcement came during the three day Middle East Rail Conference where over 9,000 visitors including government officials and industry leaders gathered to discuss the operational needs of regional rail operators.

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