By Andy Sambidge www.arabianbusiness.com
More than 33,000km of railway lines are planned to be built in the Middle East and North Africa with the region’s mainline rail network set to almost double in size, a report said on Sunday.
In all, there are plans to build more than 30,000km of mainline routes and more than 3,000km of metro, tram and monorail lines, according to the report by MEED Insight.
A review of rail projects across the Middle East, North Africa and the Levant showed there was more than $250bn of planned investment set out by governments and rail operators.
“More than half of that figure would be spent in the Gulf, where the six GCC states together with Iran and Yemen have between them rail projects worth some $145bn,” says Ed James, head of MEED Insight.
“The two main motivations for the investments are to improve the logistics infrastructure of the countries as they strive to diversify their economies away from their current reliance on the oil and gas sector, and a need to make urban transport more efficient in the rapidly growing cities,” said James.
“There is also a political dimension to some of the rail spending, in particular in the Gulf where the plans for the GCC Railway are an integral part of the project to enhance the economic and political ties between the six member states,” he added.
According to the report, the need for improved freight transport is playing a central role in many of the first schemes to move ahead because governments are seeking more efficient ways of connecting inland mines and petroleum hubs with export ports.
Among the major freight lines being built are the North-South line in Saudi Arabia, the Shah-Ruwais line in Abu Dhabi, and the new national network in Jordan.
One of the biggest spenders on rail projects will be Qatar which aims to complete its $35bn plans by 2020, two years before the country hosts the World Cup.
The Gulf state plans to build 358km of rail line, 119 of which will be underground, more than 100 stations and trains capable of speeds up to 350 km/h.
Plans are also in the pipeline for an underground West Bay People Mover project which will be 12km long, have 19 stations, two flagship stations and maintenance facilities, and will be designed for rubber-tyre vehicles.