Dubai: Oman Rail is targeting to start construction on its national rail network in 2018 with part of the network to be operational two years later, a senior executive from the state-owned company told Gulf News.
“We hope to start construction … sometime in 2018,” Oman Rail chief commercial officer John Lesniewski told Gulf News at the Middle East Rail exhibition on Wednesday.
The first segment of Oman’s rail network, a 207km to Al Ain from the Omani port city of Sohar, was scheduled to be completed by 2018. But a series of setbacks, including the January 2016 announcement by UAE rail company Etihad Rail that it was suspending the tender process for the UAE link to Oman, has put that track on hold.
Oman is now moving ahead with the three other segments of the initial network that will connect the country’s minerals, oil and gas sites with southern port cities Duqm and Salalah.
Oman has adopted a similar strategy to the UAE in developing a freight network before it starts passenger services. The design of the rail network is expected to be completed this year and tenders will be awarded in 2017, Lesniewski said. No decision has been made on which of the three segments construction will start on first, he said.
Construction of the rail network is unlikely to include public private partnerships and the government of Oman is yet to allocate funding for the reported $11 billion project, Lesniewski also said.
Oman’s rail project is part of a wider proposed trans-Gulf rail network connecting all six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states that was to be finished by 2018. GCC Assistant Secretary General for Economic Affairs Abdullah Bin Juma Al Shibli said on Tuesday the project will go ahead after the UAE Minister of Infrastructure Development, Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, said in February that 2018 was an unrealistic deadline and declined to comment whether he thought the regional project would be completed.