Consultants to redraw regional transport map

19 December 2003
Lebanese consultant engineer Dar al-Handasah (Shair & Partners)is leading an international team of engineers in a three-and-a-half-year project to develop a transport masterplan linking the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

The firm is the lead consultant on a $24 million EU project that will lead to a multi-billion dollar infrastructure programme including construction of an integrated road and rail network around the Mediterranean from Morocco to Turkey. A $1,400 million motorway from Morocco to Tunisia has already been identified.

The plan is also likely to trigger a programme of air and seaport expansions as several major regional hubs are to be identified, including terminal ports for a network of major sea routes, being referred to as sea motorways, to handle the rise in new-generation super-container ships.

In the first phase of the study, engineers at the London office of Dar al-Handasah, together with consultants Arupof the UK, Comitoof Italy and the Rand Corporationof the US, will assemble a database of existing transport infrastructure and travel demand. It will then develop a regional traffic model to predict future flows between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.

Phase two will see the introduction of financial institutions to the project and the parcelling up of work into construction packages.

A donors conference is expected during the second stage. Funding is expected to come from the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, the Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development and the Islamic Development Bank.

Funding for the $5 million-10 million study is coming from the Europe Agency for International Development (EuropeAID). The client is the European Commission.

'The end product will be a phased investment plan for transport infrastructure on a regional scale,' says one project source.

Libya is the only Mediterranean state not invited in the project. Sources say the EU is holding talks with Tripoli to close this 'gap'.

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