Muscat has delayed indefinitely the prequalification of companies for two contracts on the national railway project due to political uncertainties.

The Supreme Committee of Town Planning, the client on the railway project, first invited companies to prequalify by 31 May 2010 to bid for the two contracts (MEED 13:4:10).

One contract covers the design of the railway and the second is for the project management consultancy contract.

France’s Systra and the local National Engineering Office carried out the feasibility study for the railway project.

Following the protests that took place in Oman in February this year, Sultan Qaboos organised a cabinet reshuffle. Among the changes made was the dissolution of the National Economy Ministry and the dismissal of the former National Economy Minister, Ahmed Macki.

Macki also acted as the chairman of the railway executive board in the absence of an actual rail entity, and his departure means noone is currently leading the railway project, says a Muscat-based source following the project.

“The rail project has not moved much. With the demise of the ministry, there is uncertainty [regarding the railway project]. The shortlist of prequalified companies was due to be announced in June and the tender floated,” says the source.

“We don’t expect much movement.”

Sources close to the project say that the ownership of the railway project might be transferred to the Transport Ministry from the Supreme Committee for Town Planning, which is thought to lack the necessary experience.

The railway project is due to be constructed in three phases. The first phase will comprise a 230-kilometre line that runs from Sohar to Muscat. The second phase will be a 560km line running from Muscat to Duqm. Oman may then choose to extend the line to Salalah, which would involve building a 580km track.