Bids were originally due by December 21 but ORC, citing requests from a number of the 18 pre-qualified participants for one of Oman's most complex and capital-intensive infrastructure projects, has pushed the deadline back to January 18 2015.

The winning consortium will be required to implement the priority stretch from the industrial port of Sohar to Buraimi on the UAE border on a design and build basis. The contract encompasses all aspects of railway design, engineering, supply, construction, installation and commissioning. The winning contractor will undertake topographic and geotechnical site surveys, earthwork design, hydrology and drainage, design and construction of major and minor structures such as bridges, tunnels, and viaducts, track works, stations, freight facilities and depots, and the provision of maintenance facilities. The winning bidder will subcontract the communications and technology element of the project to five consortia led by Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, Siemens, and Thales that were pre-qualified by QRC.

The line will pass through mountainous terrain and requires construction of more than 70 viaducts totaling 27.5km with the largest a 2.4km-long span. The line will also require 10 tunnels with a total length of 4.7km.

Completion of the maiden stretch of the network will serve as a template for the progressive implementation of the eight additional sections which make up the complete Omani railway project and is in line with commitments by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to link their national networks by 2018. Italferr, Italy, is currently carrying out preliminary design of the entire network under a Rials 13.6m ($US 35m) contract awarded last year.