Abu Dhabi: The ambitious plan for a GCC railway network is enjoying top billing on the agenda at the GCC summit in Abu Dhabi.

A feasibility report on the project has been submitted to GCC policymakers for further recommendations and approval before the summit winds up on Tuesday.

The highly-anticipated 2,117km rail network is expected to be completed by 2017 if final permission is granted at the summit.

Mohammad Bin Obaid Al Mazroui, GCC assistant secretary-general for economic affairs, told Gulf News that, provided clearances come through at the summit, the network construction phase will begin with tenders being called as early as possible to develop the design.

He added that cost estimates for the GCC railway had been put at $30 billion (Dh110 billion), with diesel-powered trains operating at speeds of up to 200km/h to transport passengers and freight between the six member states.

Technology upgrade

However, Al Mazroui remarked that the technology would likely be upgraded by 2017, by which time the railway is set to be operational, to meet desired development standards.

The GCC meeting has discussed the feasibility study of the project and the issue of integration between the member states' transport networks before proceeding to phase three of the project involving the actual construction of the network, Al Mazroui said.

The GCC railway is the most ambitious project attempted in the region. It would change the transportation pattern in the GCC. Train services across the six GCC states will facilitate movement and travel of GCC citizens as well as expatriates and boost regional trade. In terms of expatriate movement across the GCC countries, the train service would eliminate many hassles.

By the time the project is completed, the railway will connect six countries, five capital cities and two seas and cross three deserts, two waterways and a mountain range.

The project also envisages bridges, causeways and over tunnel sections that will span 21km.

Abu Dhabi The GCC technical committee has taken up plans to build a railway network spanning the bloc in all seriousness.

The purpose of the project is to link the six GCC countries with a convenient travel option that will be available from Kuwait to Oman.

In 2004, a preliminary study was carried by Parsons Brinckerhoff and global Investment House and proposed two routes for the network

The first route will run across Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar and cross bridges spanning substantial sections of water before entering the UAE and Oman. The second section will stretch from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia and will pass through the UAE before entering Oman.

A consortium comprising Systra, Khatib and Alami, and Canrail has been selected as project consultants while the World Bank will be advising on the tendering process.

The engineering design briefs have been submitted for approval to member states.

The railway line stretching 2,117km will spread across Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.