UAE, Saudi to link rail networks by end of 2021

Cross-border rail links between the UAE and Saudi Arabia will be established by the end of December 2021, a top UAE official said on Monday.

Speaking at the MiddleEastRail conference, Dr Abdullah Salem Al Katheeri, Director General of the UAE’s Federal Transport Authority — Land and Maritime, confirmed the two nations were still on schedule to hit the deadline established in January 2017.

“The target, as we all know, is by the end of December 2021,” he said. “We will have the connection between us and Saudi Arabia. Between Saudi Arabia and Oman hopefully will be achieved by that date.”

Khalifa Bin Saeed Al Abri, Assistant Secretary General for Economic and Development Affairs at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) General Secretariat, speaking on the fringes of the conference at Dubai World Trade Centre, told Gulf News all individual national components of the Gulf railway project remained on schedule for both passenger and freight compnents.

Describing railways as the “missing mode” of transport in the Gulf, Al Katheeri told the conference, “We’d like to think of the rail projects in these countries as not just projects. It’s a full investment into the region with a lot of social benefits.”

The original deadline for the 2,100km Gulf Rail project, intended to provide an international link between all GCC countries, was the end of 2018, but that was revised to 2021 in January 2017.

“We know we are working hard for this,” Al Katheeri said. “There are a lot of technical committees, there is a lot of work been done, and I’m sure we have to work hard to complete the requirement that we need for this investment.”

Khalid Al Sultan, Vice-President — Infrastructure, Saudi Railway Company, said his firm would soon be seeking tenders for the Riyadh-Damman rail link, a 546km freight line, and for the Jeddah-Riyadh Land Bridge Project, a 1,000km double-track line that will link with the GCC rail network.

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Renato Gerletti