The study will be financed in a partnership between the six GCC member states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE - and the private sector, and has four key objectives:
- establish training programmes with on-the-job training and the establishment of a GCC academy for the training and development of a localised skill base, which will utilise existing training institutes
- establish programmes for specialised railway academic studies, including research and technology development
- study and establish programmes to localise supporting industries for rail projects, and
- create a working plan and timeframe to localise supporting industries, knowledge, experience and regional and international experiences to achieve sustainable rail projects.
The theme of the conference, held in Muscat, Oman, was sustainable development and speakers from each of the GCC states emphasised the role of their respective railway developments in helping to diversify their countries' economies.
For example, Oman Rail CEO Mr Abdulrahman Al-Hatmi, spoke of the need to "Omanise" the construction of the country's 2177km railway network. The company has committed to providing at least 10% of its contract value to domestic small and medium-sized companies and has already recruited 40 Omani railway engineering apprentices since it was founded in June 2014.
In addition HE Mohamed Khaled Al-Suwaiket, president of Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO), stressed that a recent fall in oil prices and the detrimental effect this is having on the GCC economy will not compromise the region's railway ambitions and that "Saudi Arabia is committed to its railway programme whatever its income," pointing to commitments made in the Saudi government's 2015 budget.
This view was echoed by Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Salem Al-Futaisi, Oman minister of transport and communications. "This is a long-term project," he said. "We are not willing to let fluctuations in the oil price compromise such a programme which is of long-term benefit to the country. This is not a challenge, it is an opportunity. We are looking for opportunities to develop new sectors to help to diversify our economy."