Mr Salim bin Said bin Salim Alami, assistant director general at the transport ministry, told Reuters on October 30 that Oman Railway Company, which will manage and operate the network, will award contracts for various project packages, including the project management consultancy, next year.

The proposed 2244km network, which is estimated to cost $US 15bn to build, will link the desert town of Buraimi, which borders the United Arab Emirates, with six major Omani settlements including the industrial city of Sohar. Italferr is carrying out preliminary design of the network which the Omani government expects to be operational by 2018.

"Our vision in this project is to help the logistics industry and trade, a significant GDP player in Oman, and to connect ports to the GCC as best we can," Alami said.