Regional GCC rail system falters while local metro rail projects flourish

The fate of a rail system that would span the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is unclear as the region’s states waffle over the feasibility of the long-awaited project.

GCC states must decide soon if the rail project is to be operational by 2020, according to the latest analysis by MEED Projects.

Meanwhile, metro projects in Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Mecca and Riyadh are pushing ahead quickly as those areas increase on local rail projects. That means efforts to develop the ambitious GCC railway track that would link the six states have been sluggish.

Analysis of railway and metro projects data reveals that there are almost $61 billion worth of rail projects under construction in the region, but more than $40 billion of that is made up from ongoing work on the Doha and Riyadh metro schemes.

"Despite years of talks and planning, we are still no closer to the development of a GCC rail network even though we are just three years away from the official opening date," Ed James, director of Content & Analysis at MEED Projects, said. "Long distance freight and passenger projects do appear to be problematic to develop in the region due to a range of issues such as cost, geo-politics, technology and rights-of-way.”

James pointed to the estimated $5 billion second phase of the Etihad Rail network as an example of sluggish progress. The line will be part of the GCC railway network linking the Abu Dhabi border with Saudi Arabia.

James said that despite tenders to build the project having been evaluated for more than two years, the client recently decided to retender the project, which resulted in even more delays.

The issues will be taken up at the forthcoming MEED MENA Rail & Metro Summit from October 5-7 at the Address Dubai Marina Hotel.

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