Plans to form a GCC Railway Authority to oversee the creation of a regional railway network have been approved, according to Ramiz al-Assar, World Bank – resident adviser, Gulf Cooperation Council – secretariat-general.

Speaking at MEED’s Rail & Metro Summit in Abu Dhabi, Al-Assar said approval was given in October. Consultancy firms will be invited to bid for a study into setting up the authority in the first quarter of 2014.

Plans to form a region-wide railway began in 2009 when an initial feasibility study was conducted.

The project is estimated to cost at least $15.5bn and will cover approximately 2,177 kilometres of railway connecting all six GCC states.

Work on the detailed design and engineering work has begun and is due to be completed by the end of 2013 or early 2014. Al-Assar told delegates construction is expected to begin by 2015, with the aim of the rail network being operational by 2018.