Dashti said establishing a transport network that connects with projects such as the 1,000-kilometre, $2.5bn GCC railway are essential if Kuwait is to reposition itself as a commercial hub. “All GCC countries today have moved into implementation, while we are still in the planning phase,” he said.“There is so much investment coming into the region – into Saudi Arabia, for example – it is going to move up through Kuwait, and we cannot miss out.”

The combined value of the two transport systems will be KD3.1bn ($11.3bn), which includes KD1.8bn for the main national rail network and KD1.3bn for the metro system. The scheme is being managed by the Communication Ministry and approval for the master-plan is expected in May, with tenders to be issued by the end of the year. Both the metro system and the national rail network are expected to be completed by 2014. Currently, the programme is three months behind schedule.

The national rail network, revealed in MEED in November 2007, will comprise five lines totalling 505km. For the 171km metro, the system will be split into four lines. It will be 65 per cent overland and 35 per cent underground, with a total of 13 basic surface stations, 16 underground and a further eight designated as downtown, seven district, six transfer and seven park and ride.

Following the successful completion of these four lines, the masterplan details a second stage of the project, which involves the network being expanded by 57km.

Funding for the project will be split, with 50 per cent from the government and 50 per cent from the private sector. Dashti says the developers are hoping to reduce government involvement to 10 per cent, making the project more lucrative for investors.

Separate companies are expected to take control of each line and contracts include infrastructure works and rolling stock. Dashti says each line need not necessarily use the same system, as long as they integrate at adjoining stations.

Following the completion of the masterplan, which represented stage 1 of the preliminary work, stage 2 – complementary studies for the networks – began in the first week of September 2007 and is expected to be completed by May 2008.

As with other rapidly developing urban Gulf states, the biggest issue might not be the inherent challenges of developing an urban transport network and integrating it within an established city. In such a car-based society, buoyed by low fuel prices, encouraging the population to use such a system may be the biggest hurdle.