France’s Systra has won the contract to carry out preparatory work for the construction of Oman’s section of the GCC Railway project.

It will conduct a four-month study into track alignment for the first phase of the railway, which will run from the port city of Sohar to the capital Muscat.

Oman section of GCC railway
Phase one (Sohar to Muscat) 230km
Phase two (Muscat to Duqm) 560km
Possible extension to Salalah 580km
Source: MEED

The company will also suggest the location of stations along the 230-kilometre route, refining the details in a study for the overall 1,500km GCC Railway, which was carried out by a consortium of three firms, including Systra.

Oman’s Supreme Committee for Town Planning, which is overseeing the project, will then issue tenders for the design of the first phase of the railway.

The committee will also appoint a consultant to conduct an alignment study for the second phase, which will run along the coast from the capital to the town of Duqm, a distance of about 560km, where an $18bn port and dry dock complex is under construction (MEED 19:9:08). “We expect to issue tenders for the phase-two alignment study in four to six months,” says one senior official on the planning committee.

Linking the two marine sites to the capital will be an important boost to Oman’s domestic transport network. It will also enable plans for the redevelopment of the capital’s port, Sultan Qaboos, to go ahead.

Oman recently appointed the UK’s Atkins to conduct a feasibility study into the conversion of Sultan Qaboos port into a tourist and cruise ship terminal, but the planning committee official says this remains contingent on the completion of the railway’s first two phases.

“We are trying to redevelop the port in Muscat, but we cannot do that until the city is connected to Sohar and Duqm by rail, so we do not need the commercial port in the capital,” he says.

With these two phases moving ahead, the committee will also be able to turn its attention to the wider scope of the GCC project, including extending the railway to the border with the UAE, and to the port of Salalah, about 580km along the coast from Duqm, close to the Yemeni border.

“The UAE is building its own railway and we will co-ordinate where our project will meet with theirs,” says the official.

Oman aims to build two lines as part of the GCC project. A slow passenger and freight service will be built first, followed by an express passenger railway.

As the alignment studies are completed for each phase of the construction, a land corridor for each of the sections of track will be reserved.

The official also says that by mid-April, Oman will issue a tender for a study into an additional national rail network to complement the GCC project, comprising metropolitan and inter-city lines.

“The national rail project will take many years over many phases, but it is important that we do the study now, so that we can reserve the land for the future,” says the official.

Systra was unavailable for comment as MEED went to press.