The partners behind the multi-billion dollar Qatar-Bahrain Causeway project have pushed back the start of construction work on the scheme by six months to accommodate for the addition of a railway line.

The bridge was originally designed as a road project, but the Qatar and Bahrain Causeway Foundation added the railway to its plans for the project in late 2009 as part of the wider GCC-wide rail network.

The bridge will include a four-lane motor crossing, which is scheduled for completion in 2013, and two railway lines, due by 2015, under the new plans.

The addition of the railway line caused delays to the designs being drawn up by the consortium which is building the bridge, says a source closely involved with the project.

The Qatar and Bahrain Causeway Foundation is currently renegotiating the cost of the project with the consortium, and early construction work is now scheduled to start in July or August this year. Work was originally due to begin in the first quarter of 2010.

The contracting consortium is led by a joint venture of state-owned developer Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company and French contractor Vinci Construction Grand Projets. Germany’s Hochtief, Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), Dredging International from Belgium, and the local Middle East Dredging Company are the other consortium members.

The early works involve site preparation and the construction of a camp to house construction workers (MEED 3:12:09).

US-based engineering and construction company KBR is managing the project.

The project, also known as the Friendship Bridge, will be jointly funded by the Qatari and Bahraini governments, the partners in the Qatar and Bahrain Causeway Foundation. The foundation plans to recover some of the construction costs on the project through a toll system that will be installed on the causeway.

Original designs for the project comprised a 40km long dual carriageway featuring 22 kilometres of bridges and viaducts and 18km of embankments and two 400-metre cable-stayed bridges. The causeway will connect Ras Ashairij on the west coast of Qatar to Askar on the east coast of Bahrain.

The crossing is expected to cut the journey time between the two countries, which involves a detour through Saudi Arabia, from five hours currently to just 30 minutes.