The estimated $4bn Qatar-Bahrain Causeway project is on hold and the contracting consortium involved with the project is demobilising.

“This one [project] is on hold,” says a source at the Qatar Bahrain Causeway Foundation (QBCF). The source could not confirm why the project is on hold, or when work will restart.

“The causeway is delayed and we are demobilising our team in Doha,” says a source at the contracting consortium working on the project.

The 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 (Medco) are the other consortium members.

In early June the consortium had not completely left the site, although the number of people working on the project has been reduced significantly, says another source closely involved with the project.

It is unclear why work on the project has stopped. In April, QBCF was renegotiating the cost of the project with the consortium and early construction work was scheduled to begin in July or August this year (MEED 25:3:10).

On 8 May a Bahraini fisherman was shot and wounded by coast guards for allegedly straying into Qatari territorial waters.

“There is nothing specific. It could be the budget, design changes for the heavy rail [GCC railway linking Qatar and Bahrain], or disagreements with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain,” says the source at the consortium.

The original plan, however, was for work to begin in the first quarter of 2010.

The early works involve site preparation and the construction of a camp to house construction workers.

The consortium now expects construction work on the project to restart in early 2011.

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Qatar-Bahrain Causeway

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

The 40-kilometre bridge will include a four-lane motor crossing, which was scheduled for completion in 2013, and two railway lines that were due to be completed by 2015.

The project will also comprise 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 project is also known as the Friendship Bridge and was to be jointly funded by the Qatari and Bahraini governments, which would recover some of the construction costs through the implementation of a toll system on the bridge.

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