ABU DHABI ø Arab countries have completed a plan to establish a
railway network throughout the Middle East.
The multi-billion dollar plan would form a rail link between the Middle
and Europe and Asia as well as connect the Gulf region to the rest of the
Arab world. The plan was completed at a recent meeting of the Directors
General of the Mideast Railways Organizations.
"We will convene the next meeting of the Middle East railways
organization in Damascus, Syria in March or April, and in this meeting all
the parties to the regional railway link will present their respective plans
to execute their individual expansions, including the financing scheme to
fund their country's railway expansion program," Abdul Razak Abdul Feilat
chairman of the group, said in late January.
Israel was not cited in the railway plan, Middle East Newsline reported.
Under the plan, a railroad would run through Gulf Cooperation Councl
states and proceed through Saudi Arabia's Red Sea system toward Jordan,
Syria and Turkey. From Turkey, the train network would move northwest toward
the rest of Europe or Asia. Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia have also been
discussing a railway link.
Officials said the regional network would depend on whether member
the Middle East agree to finance their portion of the railway.
Abdul Feilat told the Riyad-based Saudi Gazette that the organization
was trying to coordinate funding from a consortium of regional banks or
international financial institutions. He said the cost of a rail link
betweeen Amman, Jordan and the Syrian border would cost $200 million. The
cost from Damascus to the Turkish border was estimated at $600 million.
A key obstacle to the plan is Iraq, which does not yet have a permanent
government. Abdul Feilat said the rest of the Arab world would have to wait
for the emergence of a permanent Iraqi government until Baghdad could be
linked to the rest of the planned network.
Saudi Arabia is expected to be the hub in two-phase GCC railway system.
In the first phase, Manama, Bahrain would be linked to Saudi Arabia's
Province and Doha, Qatar. That phase would include construction of a bridge
that connects Bahrain to Qatar.
The second phase would link Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi Arabia is expected to begin
construction of a rail link from the Arabian Gulf to the Red Sea, in 2005.
Each of the countries has plenty of disused rail lines. They include the
Saudi line to Syria as well as railways between Syria and each of the
following Arab countries ø Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
In a related development, Iran has delivered 180 railroad cars to Sudan
worth $10 million. Iranian Transportation Minister Ahmad Khorram said
Teheran would deliver another 320 railway carriages to Sudan.