Transport ministers across the GCC member-states have yet to formally agree on a final timeline for the completion of the GCC railway network, according to a source familiar with the project.

“2021 is the new timeline being proposed but that date still has yet to be signed off by all the transport ministers across the GCC member-states,” the source told MEED.

Government authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have previously indicated that the GCC states have agreed “in principle” to move the target completion date to 2021.

The original target completion date for the 2,177km rail scheme was in 2018.

Various sources have said the more realistic execution timeline for the project could extend to up to 2025.

MEED reported in February that Saudi Arabia’s Transport Ministry intends to utilise public-private partnership (PPP) for its part of the rail network.

Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani, GCC secretary general, also said in early March that the scheme is keen to integrate private investors in order to raise the project’s competitiveness and to promote economic diversity. “We are working to offer more public projects to the private sector,” Al-Zayani said.

He said the PPP route is likely to be pursued, not just to reduce government spending commitments in light of lower oil revenues but to encourage investors, generate jobs and promote the growth of small-medium enterprises (SME).

The rail scheme was proposed to deepen the trade and economic integration between the six states by facilitating the free movement of both goods and people. Moving goods around the region by rail is also seen as safer and cheaper compared to utilising trucks and sea transport.