Manama: The King Hamad Causeway to be built between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will be used by passenger trains, freight trains and vehicles.

The separate train connections will be part of the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 2,170-km railway network, the minister of transportation Kamal Ahmad said.

The new causeway, expected to be 25 kilometres long, will run in parallel with the existing King Fahd Causeway, the only terrestrial link between the two kingdoms, which opened in November 1986. Vehicles carrying millions of passengers as well as trucks have been using the busy causeway over the years, with a daily average of 40,000 people.

The construction of the new causeway was announced during a meeting between King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa and the Saudi monarch King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz late on Friday in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.

Initial estimations believe that the King Hamad Causeway will take about four years to complete, but the business community in Bahrain has welcomed the project as a much-needed boost to the local and Gulf economies.

Several businessmen said that it would reinvigorate trade and commercial exchanges between the two kingdoms and other countries in the region and beyond.

“It was a most pleasant surprise and we are confident that the new causeway would consolidate commercial, economic and social relations between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” Abdul Rahman Fakhroo, a businessman, said. “It will eliminate the crises and problems on the King Fahd Causeway because of its limited capacity. We are really pleased, but we also look forward to plans and designs that anticipate huge developments in the distant future, and not just within five or ten years,” he said.

Businessman Kadhem Al Saeed insisted on the significance of the railway link.

“The railway movement of products has become an urgent necessity, particularly as the region witnesses fast developing rates of commercial activities, urbanism and demography,” he said.

Yousuf Al Mesh’al said that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as well as the other countries would benefit from the construction of a new terrestrial link.

“It will greatly help with economic integration in several areas,” he said. “The Bahraini market, much smaller than the Saudi’s, will benefit greatly while Saudi Arabia will benefit from the know-how of Bahrainis who can commute every day between the two countries without putting pressure on housing or health services in the Saudi kingdom, for instance,” he said.