Muscat: After a roughly six-month hiatus, plans for the establishment of a national rail system in the sultanate are finally back on track with Omani authorities floating a tender for the key design engineering package.
The multi-billion dollar scheme, which is part of a wider pan-GCC network, hit a roadblock earlier this year when a key ministry driving the project was dissolved by Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, in the wake of unprecedented protests by citizens demanding jobs and political reform.
On Saturday, the Government Tender Board invited prequalified engineering consultants to bid for the design engineering package, marking a revival of the ambitious project.
Ten well-known firms have been prequalified to compete for the design engineering package. It is not clear if a parallel tender for the project management consultancy contract will also be floated or done away with altogether.
The alignment of a roughly 1,000-kilometre-long rail system extending from Khatmat Malaha on Oman's border with the UAE, to Duqm on the Wusta coast, has already been finalised.
A branch line from Sohar to Al Ain will also be implemented in the first phase of the project's development, while extensions from Duqm to Salalah and onward to the Sultanate's border with Yemen, are also on the anvil.
The National Railway Project is aimed at providing efficient and economical high-speed rail connectivity between major population centres, such as Muscat, Salalah and the Batinah region. Another key objective of the project is to enable high-capacity transport links between growth centres, including seaports, free trade zones, industrial estates, mining zones, and so on.
The National Railway network will comprise a double track, standard-gauge (1,435mm) system with provision made for the introduction of high-speed trains, with speeds of up to 350 kilometres per hour (kph), in the future.
Initially, however, passenger trains will be operated at speeds of 200 kph, while freight trains will run at speeds ranging from 80 to 120 kph. The trains will run on electrical power, supplied through overhead electrical infrastructure that will be built along the length of the network.