The 120km coastal section of the railway will form a key element of the 2177km Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway which is planned to link all six GCC member states: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. Etihad Rail is expected to launch soon the second stage of its 628km section of the GCC Railway.
Oman Rail, which is developing the country's 2135km railway network, received bids in October from eight groups led by international rail operators for the operations and maintenance contract for the 207km phase 1 of the network from Buraimi on the UAE border to the port of Sohar. The contract should be awarded early this year.
Last year, Oman Rail prequalified more than a dozen groups for construction contracts for the next three phases of the network which cover more than 1200km from Hafeet on the border with the UAE to Salalah in the far south. Another 12 groups have been prequalified for the 93km mountainous segment from Thumrait to Salalah Port, which will require extensive tunnelling and construction of high viaducts.
Saudi Arabia is responsible for the central section of the GCC railway from Al-Khafji near the Kuwait border via Hofuf to Al Batha near the UAE border with links to Bahrain and Qatar. Speaking recently in the Saudi daily Sharqalwasat, HE Mohammed Khalid Al-Suwaiket, president of Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO), said that bids for the design of the GCC rail project will be invited in the second half of this year. He also said that GCC member states are considering whether to involve the private sector in the project.
Meanwhile SRO has completed track doubling between Dammam, Hofuf and Riyadh and will introduce four new trains which have just been delivered by CAF (above). Saudi Railway (SAR) is nearing completion of the north-south railway and plans to launch its first passenger service between Riyadh and Qurayyat near the Jordanian border during the second half of this year. A rail link is being studied between SAR's new station in Riyadh and the SRO station to enable the operation of through services.
SRO plans to open the northern 320km section of the 450km Haramain high-speed line between Medina and King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) later this year, with the rest of line to Jeddah and Mecca opening on January 1 2017.
Rapid progress is being achieved with metro projects in the Arabian peninsula. According to Eng Saad Al Muhannadi, CEO of Qatar Rail, 61km of tunnels out of 113km being constructed by 21 tunnel boring machines on the Doha metro have been completed, 37 stations are under construction, and the project has more than 27,000 people working on site, while tunnelling for the Lusail light rail system has been completed.
This year will see the completion of metro tunnelling; all mechanical, electrical and plumbing contracts will be awarded, with overall project completion reaching 50% in preparation to open the first phase of the Red, Green and Gold lines in 2019. Full-scale mock ups of the new Doha metro train and the Lusail tram will also arrive in Doha this year.
ArRiyadh Development Authority (ADA) is responsible for implementing the new 176.6km six-line metro in Riyadh which is being constructed by three separate consortia. ADA intends to open the first sections of the network in 2018 and complete the entire project the following year. Alstom is due to deliver its first three trains for lines 4, 5 and 6 to ADA in 2017, while Siemens has already begun construction of its trains for lines 1 and 2, and Bombardier has unveiled train designs for Line 3.
Metro Jeddah invited companies in December to pre-qualify for tenders to supply trains and equip and fit out the city's new four-line metro for which civil works prequalification started in July. The network will comprise the 33km Blue Line serving the airport, the 42km Orange Line, the east-west Green Line which will be 16.5km long, and the 58km Red Line.
Finally, this year should see progress on Mecca's plans to build two new metro lines, the construction of a new line in Dubai to serve the Expo 2020 site, Kuwait's plans to build a fully-automated 160km four-line metro, and Abu Dhabi's proposed metro and light rail network.