The Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Foundation has received bids from at least two firms for the consultancy contract to carry out programme management services on the $2bn project.

The bidders include the UK’s Halcrow with UK-based KBR, and another UK firm Mott MacDonald.

The successful bidder will report directly to the foundation and will manage the project on behalf of the client. Previously, it had been expec-ted that the programme manager would report to the Bahraini authorities, while the contracting consortium would report to the Qatari government.

The programme management role is crucial to the project and the protracted tendering process for the deal is understood to have temporarily delayed the award of the construction contract to build the 45-kilometre-long structure.

Construction work was expected to start in May but the contract has yet to be awarded, although a memo-randum of understanding was signed in October by the foun-dation and an international consortium.

The consortium comprises Qatari Diar, France’s Vinci Con-struction Grand Projets, Ger-many’s Hochtief, Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Inter-national Company, and Belgium’s Dredging International with the local Middle East Dredging Company.

In the first phase of the deal, which lasted six months and ended in March, the con-sortium, together with Denmark’s Cowi, reviewed the preliminary designs, prepared detailed designs and assessed the project’s viability.

A preliminary budget is now due to be given to the client ahead of a formal award and the start of construction. The client could yet decide to seek other prices competitively through a tender.

Known as the Friendship Causeway, the project will link the western Qatari coast at Ras Ashiraj to the village of Askar on the eastern coast of Bahrain.

The design is expected to consist of bridges built in shallow waters, combined with roads constructed on dams. It is estimated it will take four years to build.

The crossing is one of the most ambitious projects planned for the Gulf region and has been in the planning stages for almost a decade.

The scheme was first unveiled in 1999 as a symbol of the friendship between Bahrain and Qatar, following Doha and Manama’s acceptance of an International Court of Justice ruling on the Hawar islands.

However, there was no progress on the project until 2001, when a Danish consortium led by Cowi, with specialist toll operator Sund & Baelt, hydraulic consultant DHI Water & Environment, and arch-itect Dissing & Weitling, was commissioned to conduct a feasibility study.

Once this had been completed, the project stalled once again until the memorandum of understanding was signed with the consortium for the construction contract late last year (MEED 1:02:08).