Kuwait’s long-delayed $7 billion metro system back on track

The long-delayed US$7 billion metro system in Kuwait is back on track, with new advisers appointed and bidding likely to start next year.

Fatima Al Kandari, a project manager at the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (Kapp), said the authority was in the process of updating feasibility studies for the project and had appointed new advisers.

“We are planning to start the procurement in the first quarter of 2016,” Ms Al Kandari said at the Mena Rail and Metro Summit in Dubai.

Plans for Kuwait’s metro were first announced in 2006 and the initial feasibility study was handed to the government in 2008. However, it was subsequently put on hold.

Ms Al Kandari said the metro would have 160 kilometres of rail lines and 68 stations – 60 per cent of that will be underground.

The metro is being completed in five phases. The first phase, the Red Line, would run from a rail freight depot (being built for use on the GCC rail network) and Kuwait International Airport into Kuwait City.

Ms Al Kandari said that work would be split into four infrastructure packages and a combined deal for systems and rolling stock. Contracts will be signed with a district cooling service provider, a management firm to oversee construction and an operator for the rail network. Procurement for Kuwait’s long-distance, heavy rail network will also begin in the first quarter of next year. The $10bn Kuwait National Rail Road System will stretch 574km from the Saudi border in the south of the country to the Iraqi border in the north, via a main freight depot and Boubyan Port. There will also be a line running from east to west, and connections to ports and industrial cities.

The first phase will connect from Nuwaiseeb on the border with Saudi Arabia up to the freight depot, with a branch line to the main passenger station, where it will interchange with the metro.

Kapp was created following the passing of a new law governing public-private partnerships in Kuwait, which took effect in March.

The authority is responsible for identifying public-private partnerships and setting up the companies to operate them.

Under its model, 50 per cent of the shares in public-private partnership vehicles will be offered to Kuwaiti investors, and between 26 and 44 per cent will be held by international project developers and investors. Kuwait’s government will retain the remaining 6 to 24 per cent.

“I think the market and the opportunity in the region now is better than it has ever been for transport public-private partnerships and rail in particular because it is the most active market and the one that offers the greatest opportunities,” said Trevor Butcher, the head of finance and projects at the law firm DLA Piper Middle East.

However, Melvyn Ford, a vice president at Hill International, a construction consultancy, was sceptical about the adoption of public-private partnerships. “I’ve been coming in and out of the Middle East since 1982 and in those 33 years it’s been talked about several times, but it’s never actually happened,” he said.


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