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Saudi Arabia causeway plan to foster close ties

Expansion of King Fahd Causeway will boost economic and political ties between Riyadh and Manama

The news that the King Fahd Causeway from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain is to be expanded will be well received in both countries, for both practical and political reasons.

Up to 45,000 cars cross the causeway each day, with the figure touching 60,000 at weekends. The heavy congestion and current customs systems can result in trucks being delayed on the causeway for weeks.

Progress with the causeway expansion will be welcomed by authorities in Bahrain, as it shows its Sunni rulers maintain the support of the neighbouring regional superpower.

One of the iconic images of the Arab unrest in early 2011 was when Saudi Arabia sent more than 1,000 troops and tanks over the causeway into Bahrain.

It is not just the causeway expansion that is planned to improve connections between the two states. A feasibility study into the construction of a rail link between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is expected to be awarded in March or April; and expressions of interest have already been sent out to the market.

The railway line will form part of the $15.5bn GCC-wide railway network, which is planned to be operational by 2018.

The political ties and economic might of Saudi Arabia should ensure that the development of the proposed new links with Bahrain make swift progress. In addition to the economic, social and political benefits for each country, the projects will offer major opportunities for the region’s construction sector.