In the summer, only the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar seemed to be moving ahead with the development of their respective rail plans. Four months later and much has changed. With renewed movement in Oman, it is now just Bahrain that needs to move ahead with its own plans.

In the first quarter of 2010, Bahrain was ahead of its Gulf neighbours and had prequalified 10 companies for the deal to carry out a detailed feasibility study for the first phase of a planned $7.9bn rapid transit network. This was later cancelled and retendered. In July 2011, about 21 consultants submitted prequalification documents to the Works Ministry. Phase one was due to start operating in 2014, but this will now be pushed back.

GCC railway progress
Country Status
UAE Civil engineering phase one awarded
Qatar Consultancy contracts due to be awarded
Saudi Arabia Civil works for Haramain high-speed railway to be complete in 2012. North-South minerals freight line opened in 2011
Kuwait Rail advisory awarded
Bahrain Prequalification to be relaunched
Oman Design bids due in December
Sources: MEED; MEED Projects

In October, the UAE awarded the $898m contract that covers the civil engineering of the first phase of the $11bn national railway. This was the first major construction deal to be awarded. Etihad Rail, developer of the railway, has now moved on to the second phase, which will see the railway extended to Ghweifat and Al-Ain, with a spur leading to the new Khalifa port. Prequalification documents for various contracts, including civil works, railway integration and systems and switches are due to be submitted in December.

Saudi Arabia too is progressing well with the development of its rail infrastructure. The contract that covers the construction of the passenger stations of the North-South minerals railway line was due to be awarded in November.

Qatar’s $35bn integrated rail programme remains the most ambitious of all the rail plans in the region, partly because of the slim time frame involved. Doha metro, Lusail light railway project and a high-speed passenger and freight line must all be complete in time for 2022 when Qatar will host football’s Fifa World Cup. The awards for the first wave of construction deals will be awarded in the first half of 2012.

The two countries that had been lagging a few months ago, Oman and Kuwait, have both now made progress. In August, Kuwait awarded its railway advisory contract to a consortium comprising the US’ Booz & Company, local NBK Capital, US-based Wilbur Smith and the UK’s Allen & Overy. Booz & Company will now assist the Partnerships Technical Bureau (PTB) in planning the technical aspects of the railway, developing feasibility studies and establishing project financing.

There are also discussions under way to split the $7bn Kuwait metro project into several contracts to make it easier to finance.

Oman’s railway plans had stalled in the summer due to the anti-government protests taking place at that time. Now the contract that covers the design of the national railway project is moving ahead, with bids due in on 5 December. The progress on the contract covering project management consultancy has not moved forward.

In 2012, the Gulf will see huge advancements in its various rail programmes with construction set to start on railways in the UAE and Qatar. Bahrain will have to catch up in order to complete the GCC railway.