The ongoing diplomatic crisis in the GCC did not stop more than 100 investors and large international and regional contractors along with legal and technical consultants from attending the market consultation event held on 7 June in Manama for the second causeway that will link Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Companies are expected to express interest for the contract by 29 June. While no further dates were available in terms of the prequalification and bidding timeline, certain details of the project indicate strong urgency.
First, the scheme will use the same corridor as the existing King Fahd Causeway, where traffic has grown consistently by an average of 7 per cent annually since it opened over 30 years ago. With 31,000 vehicles using the causeway daily and each vehicle paying at least $7 for each crossing, the existing causeway has generated tariffs worth roughly $2bn over the past three decades. It is also expected to reach its service level capacity by 2028.
Utilising the simplest forecast methodology will indicate the projects strong bankability even at this early stage.
Second, using the same corridor could potentially minimise the time required to undertake further studies such as the environmental impact assessment for the scheme, allowing for a shorter time to move the project to the execution stage.
The new causeway is also significant in that it will be the first road-rail scheme in the region. It is not yet known if the rail tracks and road will be separated to allow cars and trains to operate at the same time, similar to Australias Sydney Harbour Bridge, or if the rail track will be constructed above or below the road.
Its potential merits mean the worlds largest engineering and design companies will fight hard to win the contract.
Given the political will behind the scheme and its demonstrated ability to pay for itself, it now appears that investors and bankers will have little reason not to want to be on board this potentially historic transport public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.