Muscat: Oman is ramping up its efforts to build a 2,244-kilometre rail network that is expected to link major ports and neighbouring countries. The country’s Tender Board has already announced 13.582 million Omani riyals (Dh129 million) worth of Preliminary Design Consultancy services contract but in line with longstanding practice did not name the successful bidder.
Meanwhile, a government-owned English daily has reported that the country’s national railway project will be formally known as ‘Oman Rail’. The official naming of the project comes against a flurry of developments confirming that the Sultanate’s maiden foray into rail-based passenger and freight transportation services is now well and truly underway. Oman Rail principal brief is to implement domestic railway infrastructure linking the major ports, industrial areas and free zones at Sohar, Salalah and Duqm, and potentially the Yemeni border as well, with a wider GCC network. Passenger trains will link major passenger hubs, including Muscat city and major airports.
In addition to developing the requisite infrastructure, Oman Rail will also manage the operations and maintenance of the network. It will attract investments to the network, as well as in related businesses, including manufacturing and service industries. Oman Rail will be administered by the Oman Rail Company which is being set up.
Oman Rail will be allowed to establish subsidiaries to manage part of its responsibilities if the economics are such. Furthermore, Oman Rail can enter into partnerships with investors in various aspects of railway services. Part of its mandate is also to develop the capabilities of Omani nationals to serve at all levels — management, professional, technical, skilled and semi-skilled. Ahead of the formal establishment of Oman Rail, the Ministry has launched the process of selecting a qualified consultant to undertake an Organisation Design Study for the parent company. A number of international companies are participating in a local tender floated by the Ministry in this regard.
Oman’s Transport and Communications Minister Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Futaisi has described the project as “one big, ambitious and complete” network extending from Buraimi and Sohar through to Duqm and Salalah. “We are determined to link our three major ports in the county — Sohar, Duqm and Salalah — with other GCC countries through this important project,” he noted.