Persian Gulf States Plan $10 Billion Rail Link to Troubled Yemen

Persian Gulf countries are studying a $10 billion plan to extend the length of a 2,177-kilometer (1,353-mile) rail line between Kuwait and Oman by 60 percent in order to link it to Yemen in the south of the Arabian peninsula.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has begun a feasibility assessment of the additional 1,373 km section, which would feature 12 stations and terminate at the Yemeni border, Nada Abu Al Samh, a financial analyst at the GCC General Secretariat, said at a rail symposium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Gulf states are examining the plan as work progresses on the $15.5 billion core rail route from the borders of Iraq to Muscat on the India Ocean. Some 120 km of track have been laid in the United Arab Emirates and about 200 km in Saudi Arabia, Ramiz Al-Assar, a transport specialist at the World Bank and adviser to the project, said at the conference, calling on nations to expedite formation of a single management body.

“The rest of the GCC countries have all started the design phases so it is crucial to form the GCC Railway Authority as soon as possible to oversee the progress of the project,” Al-Assar said. Oman is in the process of hiring at least 250 people to implement its part of the core plan, he said.

An extension to Yemen, first studied last decade, would bolster links between GCC states and a largely rugged territory where the government has little control and which has become a haven for terror group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Bahrain Bridge

Ibrahim al-Sabti, director of the GCC secretariat’s transport department and himself from Saudi Arabia, said at the symposium that a switch to carrying cargo by rail will help limit road congestion at border crossings while also aiding a clampdown on smuggling to and from states such as Yemen.

The GCC meanwhile aims to complete a feasibility study this year into a bridge linking Saudi Arabia with Bahrain, according to a presentation at the conference.

The $4.2 billion link would be built parallel to the King Fahad Causeway, Al-Assar said in an interview at the event.

The GCC also plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail in the first quarter. OTIF, which doesn’t count the GCC countries among its 48 members, was founded in 1985 to promote legal changes necessary for international rail carriage.

The GCC Railway is due to be completed in 2018 and will run from Kuwait City, passing through the Saudi port of Dammam to the U.A.E. and on to Oman. Bahrain and Qatar will be connected via a loop from the main line, with talks under way on plans for a causeway between the two countries, Al-Assar said.

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