GCC states to spend billions on heavy rail network

A planned rail system for the UAE is just the beginning as Gulf countries ready a rail network to open in 2017.

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After years of the dominance of petrol-guzzling sport utility vehicles, rail is about to enter the Gulf in a big way. The UAE's planned heavy rail network running from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah will eventually become part of the 2,000km GCC network expected to open in 2017. The network will run from Kuwait City through Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE before terminating in Oman, or possibly Yemen.

These Gulf states are preparing to pour between US$10bn (Dh36.72bn) and $25bn into light and heavy rail to modernise urban centres and battle road congestion. Last year, Dubai introduced the first metro system in the GCC, and Abu Dhabi has plans for 130km of metro lines, a 340km tram system and 580km of high-speed rail connecting Al Ain, Dubai and Al Gharbia, in addition to the Union Railway freight line. All are part of the emirate's 2030 development plan.

For the Gulf-wide rail project, a technical committee made up of the French rail company Systra, CanRail of Canada and the Lebanese engineering company Khatib and Alami has been hired by the GCC Secretariat. The committee's initial estimates are that about 4 million passengers could use the service in its first year of operation. A final decision about proceeding with the project is expected next year.