Construction work on the GCC railway project could begin by 2010, after completion of a feasibility study in 2008, according to the World Bank, which is advising the GCC Technical committee on the tendering process.

With the full support of all GCC states, the plans for a 1,000 kilometre-long line along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula are being pushed forward. The estimated cost of the project is $2,500 million.

‘If you look at the example of Saudi Arabia, each kilometre of track cost $1 million-2 million,’ says Ramiz al-Assar, senior transport specialist in Saudi Arabia for the World Bank.

‘This would bring a total cost of $2,000 million-2,500 million but this could go up if the line is extended into Yemen, double lines are built and so on.’

A decision on whether to extend the line from Oman into Yemen will be taken at the GCC summit in Qatar in December. Al-Assar says it is likely the extension will be approved.

A consortium of three rail and engineering consultancies, France’s Systra, Canarail of Canada, and Lebanese consultant Khatib & Alami, began the feasibility study into the project in September (MEED 14:9:07).

However, Al-Assar says there are still serious difficulties with the decision-making process that could hinder the project.

‘The cycle for approving a decision in each country, and then collectively, can be six months to a year,’ he says.