Dubai: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministers will meet in Riyadh next month to agree on a new completion date for a regional rail network, UAE’s Minister of Infrastructure Development said on Wednesday.

The six GCC states aimed to link their countries by rail by 2018. But a series of setbacks seems to have finally taken its toll with ministers now in agreement their self-imposed deadline is no longer achievable.

Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi said he asked GCC transport ministries at a meeting in Doha, Qatar last year to become “more realistic” in delivering the network. “We know that 2018 is not realistic,” he said at a press conference at the ministry in Dubai.

Al Nuaimi offered no time frame on when the regional network would now be finished and said that he hoped to getter a better indication in Riyadh next month.

Asked if he still believes the regional network would go ahead, he said: “I have no comment on this.”

Government spending in the Arab Gulf states has been cut back over the last 18 months as oil prices continue their sharp decline.

Last week, Oman said it would focus on building its domestic rail network after Etihad Rail, the company building the UAE’s network, suspended plans to connect Abu Dhabi’s western region with Oman, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the UAE.

Al Nuaimi said Etihad Rail, which is owned 60 per cent by the Abu Dhabi government and 30 per cent by the UAE federal government, is not reliant on government spending.

He also said UAE will now “reconsider” its national rail network though the scope for the regional network has not been unchanged. He added that the “biggest part” of the connection to the Saudi Arabian border “is complete.”