The new Oman Railway Company will start operations before the end of the year, as the Gulf country speeds up the development of its national railway plans.

The new firm will oversee the progress of the planned 2,444-kilometre national railway, which will connect Oman’s major ports and cities including Muscat, Sohar, Duqm and Salalah.

The Transport & Communications Ministry has awarded the UK-based Grant Thornton the contract to study the organisational structure of the new company.

“We are taking an advising and consulting role, helping them design, define and implement an operational framework and organisational structure,” says Raza Ashraf, partner advisory, Oman, Yemen and Ethiopia at Grant Thornton.

“It is so all are clear where everyone fits and what needs to be done,” he adds.

The sultanate has already started to tender and award rail project contracts ahead of the establishment of the company.  

The transport ministry awarded a €28m ($37.3m) consultancy services deal for the preliminary design of the national railway to Italy’s state railway group Italferr in August.

Five firms had submitted bids for the railway’s project management contract at the end of August.

Oman is expected to start the prequalification process for the design-and-build deals this year as well.

The sultanate is keen to catch up with its GCC neighbours, who have reached a more advanced stage with their own railway schemes. A section of the first phase of the UAE’s Etihad Railway is due to be completed by the end of this year.

Oman is aiming to fulfill its pledge that the national railway will be operational by 2018. This is also the deadline set for the formation of the GCC-wide railway.