GCC Rail Investment Plans

GCC Rail Investment Plans

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – is one of the wealthiest country groupings in the world. Over recent years, the region has begun investing heavily in railways. Here we give a snapshot of the region’s plans to construct over 8,000 km of mainline railways, in some of the most inhospitable conditions on the planet, over the next decade.

GCC Rail Investment Plans

GCC Rail Investment Plans (April 2014)

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia accounts for over two-thirds of the Arabian Peninsula land mass, and is developing an extensive national network:

  • The existing 449 km passenger line and 556 km freight line between Riyadh and Dammam are being upgraded to twin track
  • The Saudi Landbridge project will extend the current lines from Riyadh to Jeddah (945 km) and from Dammam to Jubail (115 km)
  • The North-South Line will add 2,400 km of freight lines, extending the railway from Riyadh and Jubail to Jordan
  • The Haramain High Speed Rail project will connect Medina, Jeddah and Mecca with a 450 km long, 360 km/h electrified line
  • Feasibility studies are being conducted on new lines in the South West of the country.

Other GCC Countries

Though much smaller in geographical terms, the other countries of the GCC also have ambitious plans:

  • Kuwait is planning a 511 km freight and passenger network which will include 200 km/h high speed lines
  • The 400 km Qatar Long Distance Railway Network will provide freight and passenger services within Qatar, and links to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
  • Etihad Rail is developing a 1,200 km railway network across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in three phases, the first of which will open in 2014, with Phases 2 and 3 following in 2016 and 2018
  • Oman is planning a 2,244 km national railway network that will link six cities to the UAE at Al Ain.

GCC Railway

One of the drivers behind the railway boom is to create a regional railway. The GCC Railway is due to open in 2018 and will total approximately 2,177 km, with sections in Kuwait (145 km), Saudi Arabia (695 km), Bahrain (64 km), Qatar (283 km), UAE (684 km) and Oman (306 km).

A key issue for the GCC has been how to ensure rail services operating in one country can travel safely over neighbouring railways.  Although it doesn’t have the benefit of supporting European Union (EU) Directives, the GCC is planning to create a ‘GCC Railway Authority’ and apply a regulatory framework based on that employed in the EU, including the use of Technical Standards for Interoperability (TSIs), Common Safety Methods and cross-acceptance.