GCC rail in doubt after UAE drops Oman link

11 June 2015

Phase 2 of Etihad Rail has been retendered

  • UAE’s Etihad Rail has dropped link to Al-Ain on Omani border
  • Link was part of phase 2 of the UAE’s national rail project
  • Phase 2 has been retendered after protracted negotiations stalled

The future of the GCC railway has been thrown into doubt after the Etihad Rail retendered the construction contracts for the second phase of the UAE’s national rail without the connection to Oman.

The second phase of the Etihad Rail network had previously included a link to Al-Ain that would connect to the Omani rail network with a link running from Buraimi and onto Sohar.

Etihad Rail has invited contracting consortiums to submit technical bids for the reduced second phase by 16 July, with commercial offers due on 30 July.

Etihad Rail had been locking in protracted negotiations with two shortlisted contracting groups for the second phase for over a year. Bids were submitted in November 2012. The two shortlisted groups were understood to be:

  • Salini Impregilo (Italy) / Samsung C+T (South Korea) / Tristar (local)
  • China Railway Construction Company (China )/ Ghantoot Group (local)

The original scope for phase 2 involves building rail lines in Abu Dhabi emirate between Ghuweifat and Ruwais, a link to Al-Ain, and a line to Jebel Ali in Dubai. It also included a branch line between Mussafah and Industrial City Abu Dhabi – it is understood that this link may also have been dropped.

Etihad Rail did not comment on the retender.

The removal of the link to Oman comes as the sultanate prepares to start work on the first section of its own national railway that will connect Sohar and Buraimi.

Bids from five groups are currently being evaluated by Oman Rail for the first segment. They are:

The project is the first part of the sultanate’s $15bn national railway project, the last to be announced in the GCC states’ collective rush to address increasing demand for passenger and freight travel, resulting directly from an expansion in population and economic activities.

It is unclear how the authorities in Oman will reaction to the UAE’s decision to drop the link to Oman.

According to sources in the sultanate, the project could continue without a connection to the UAE the Gulf coast and the GCC network. Other sources have mooted a possible link bypassing the UAE connecting Salalah with Riyadh.

It is not the first time that connections between countries has been an issue for the GCC rail network. In 2008 the railway was planned to connect Bahrain and Qatar using the proposed Qatar-Bahrain causeway. The crossing was then put on hold in 2010.

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