The Transport Ministry will invite international consultants in October to submit expressions of interest in a one-year contract to plan the modernisation of the kingdom’s rail network and its connection to neighbouring countries.The project to develop Jordan’s railways involves the construction of a north-south railway and an east-west railway linking Amman with Damascus, Baghdad, Riyadh and Cairo. It also involves the conversion of the kingdom’s narrow gauge track to standard gauge. ‘We are preparing terms of reference for a railway network masterplan,’ says a ministry source. ‘A study carried out seven years ago estimated the cost of the project at about $1,000 million. We want to update this study.’ The expansion of the local rail network is designed to raise the kingdom’s competitiveness regionally and internationally by providing rapid access for freight from the Gulf of Aqaba to regional capitals such as Baghdad. The programme forms a key part of Amman’s 2005-07 transport strategy announced in late September. The government will seek private sector investors to deliver the new rail network (MEED 25:6:04).