The GCC railway is targeting a 2018 completion date, says the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is coordinating the development of the regional rail network.

“The project will be fully operational by 2018; this is ambitious, but all member states are targeting to achieve it,“ said Ramiz al-Assar, senior adviser to the GCC Secretariat General – World Bank, speaking at MEED’s Mena Rail & Metro Summit in Abu Dhabi on 29 October. “It has full commitment from the heads of states.”

The plans for the railway were approved in 2009, and construction work on some parts of the network has already started. “The UAE has started building parts of the GCC railway and parts of their national rail system,” said Al-Assar. “Saudi Arabia has also started parts of their national railway that is part of the regional line and part of what they call the North-South Railway

The completed rail network will connect all six GCC countries and will include a section crossing a new causeway between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The network will be used mainly for freight transportation, but will also be used for passenger services.

The lines will be 1,435-gauge, and will use diesel-powered trains that can travel at speeds of up to 220 kilometres an hour (km/h) for passenger services and 80-120km/h for freight.

The expected infrastructure cost of developing the diesel network is $15.6bn. A more expensive electro-traction system costing $25bn was previously considered.