The GCC governments will be investing more than $200 billion in railway projects in the region which will see the laying of 40,000 km of railway lines, said Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Salim Al Futaisi, the Minister of Transport and Communications in Oman.
Addressing the delegates after inaugurating ‘The GCC Rail and Metro Conference 2015’ in capital Muscat, Al Futaisi said: “Our challenge will not just be in how to ensure the success of executing these projects from a technical and operational point of view, but on how to exploit the socio-economic potential of these massive investments so to ensure the multiplier effect into our economies.”
More than 500 representatives from 25 countries are taking part in the two-day conference which kicked off on Sunday (January 11).
The event is being headlined by high-ranking government officials from the GCC states’ ministries of transport, trade and commerce, and finance, alongside top executives from Etihad Rail, Saudi Railways Organization (SRO), Saudi Railway Company, Qatar Rail, and Oman Rail.
“This provides a good environment to attract companies, manufactures, human resources and capital to the region, remarked Dr Al Futaisi.
On the opening day, participants shared progress on project development and localisation initiatives, and took part in dynamic panel discussions to address key issues, challenges and opportunities enabling effective private sector participation.
Faris Saif Al Mazrouei, the acting CEO of Etihad Rail, said: “The market will get an extra sector in which to expand, providing opportunities for both the public and private sector. We are currently looking at the UAE, and are in stage one of testing and commissioning – things are moving ahead as planned.”
Dr Ramiz Al Assar, the resident advisor (World Bank) for GCC said the Gulf rail project was one of a kind, ambitious and complex in nature. “It will link six member states as a regional transport corridor, further integrating with the national railway projects, deepening economic social and political integration, and it is developed from a sustainable perspective.”
Saudi Arabian Railways CEO Dr Rumaih M Al Rumaih said the organisation was building a massive network of 5000 km. “Already 1,400 km is operational, with the ability to transport phosphate and bauxite from mines to the manufacturing facilities at the port in Ras Al Khair,” he noted.
“Since the line became operational, we have transported more than 6.5 million tons of phosphate. The benefits of using the railway are tangible – we have saved 70 per cent of the fuel that would have otherwise been consumed by trucks,” stated Al Rumaih.
The impact on the environment is huge – there will be an estimated 50 per cent reduction of C02 by using trains to transport goods, he added.