Developing a regional railway always has a number of challenges to contend with. Each country involved needs to agree on common standards and stick to a development schedule for each piece to come together in harmony. To overcome these issues facing the proposed GCC railway, the GCC Secretariat has started the study for a new rail authority to oversee the development of the scheme.
The most pressing issue facing the proposed GCC rail network is the indefinite delay of the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway. If the project is not revived, it will delay the whole development. More importantly, the lack of a rail link between Qatar and Bahrain means alternative routes for the GCC railway will have to be used.
There is still time to mitigate these problems as so far progress varies from state to state. In terms of actual construction, Saudi Arabia is by far the most advanced. The UAE and Oman are currently prequalifying contractors and project managers. Bahrain and Kuwait are still in the planning stages.
In Doha, Qatari Diar together with Germany’s Deutschebahn has formed a joint venture to develop Qatar’s railway. Construction has not yet started.
Trying to effectively coordinate six different countries with the aim of making sure their railway designs are not only feasible within their own borders, but also that they adhere to a common set of standards is a major challenge of developing the project.
The GCC Rail Authority will have to answer those questions about how the project will be implemented. The grey areas like how the railway network will work in terms of customs, immigration and passport checks will also need to be solved. The challenge for the GCC Secretariat and transport ministers now lies in ensuring all six states stick to a set timeline so that the project is up and running by 2017 as planned.