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The inaugural GulfRail exhibition and conference will take place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre from April 17 to 19, 2012.

Following the Dubai Metro, rail projects in the GCC have become a point of focus with multi-billion dollar investments being made by each state. A countrywide $11 billion (Dh40.4bn) railway network in the UAE with 1,500km will be rolled out over the next 7-8 years. Moreover, Abu Dhabi has revealed plans for a new rail network serving the city of Al-Ain in the emirate's Eastern Region. Dubai Metro has completed its first phase with a whopping investment of US $ 6 billion, and another mass transit network with 75 km will carry 1.8 million passengers per day by 2020.

Satish Khanna, General Manager, Al Fajer Information and Services said that it will be common for a person to travel from Dubai to Jeddah or Abu Dhabi to Doha in a few hours, with convenience. Abu Dhabi has joined the fray with 131 km metro rail system which is expected to partially start in 2015. Last year, GCC transport ministers approved a feasibility study for the US$ 12 billion GCC railway. Further, on a broader perspective, the network would extend from the GCC to Jordan, Syria and Turkey. The next move would be a more extensive system linking up with systems providing access to Europe and Asia via Turkey, Khanna said.

The Dubai World Trade Centre will host the GulfRail show in 2012, which aims to become a key regional industrial event highlighting the latest information and technologies in Rail and Tunnelling Systems, and will serve as a strategic networking platform for industry experts around the globe.

The key driver of the rail industry for GCC is public-private partnerships. GCC is heading towards creating a reliable, effective and frequent high speed rail network connecting GCC countries. Investment opportunities in intelligent transport systems in the GCC are huge. The rail sector in this region is growing rapidly. Many companies outside the region regard the upcoming rail sector in the Middle East as the most lucrative opportunity to do business, Khanna added.

There are huge upcoming railway projects in the Middle East. The GCC network will include one rail line of 1,970 km connecting all GCC countries and Qatar via a bridge. The second line of 1,984 km will stretch between Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and end in Oman.

Khanna added: The last five years have seen the announcement of a series of transport projects by various Gulf countries, including railway projects. In order to meet the pressing regional logistics demands, the next 10-15 years will see transport projects worth $ 170 billion. Out of this, 85% will be spent by UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Precisely over $ 108 billion will be spent in Railway sector alone.

 KSA is also planning a railway line connecting the Kingdom to Europe. Saudi Arabia is spending $25 billion on its rail network adding 3,900 kms of track through three major projects. Saudi Arabia has already begun work on four different railway projects. Focus will be on 1000 km land-bridge, East-West Railway project, running from Jeddah and Dammam and bridging gap between the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The project will consist of two tracks, the first of which will cover 449 km and handle only passengers while the second will stretch over 556 kilometers and will be devoted exclusively to freight. On completion it is estimated to transport more than 300 million passengers per year and one billion tonnes per year.

 Saudi Rail Organisation recently issued tenders for the first construction contract on the 500 km Haramain high speed rail link between Makkah and Madinah. The $7 billion project is aimed at providing transport for Umrah and Haj pilgrims travelling between the two cities and Jeddah.

Khanna added: A rail line connecting Saudi Arabia and Europe is not a distant dream. Also, KSA may restore and rebuild the historic Hejaz Railway that linked Damascus and Madina with a narrow-gauge rail line. Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman have already engaged international consultants for studies.

The Sultanate of Oman also has plans for the building of national railways to boost the country's infrastructure. Oman appointed consultants to conduct a feasibility study of a 200 km railway network that will begin in Sohar to connect Bikra in north Muscat and then extending to Duqum.

A 1,500 Km railway line costing US$ 14 billion linking Kuwaits border with Iraq, down the Gulf coast to the Omani port of Salah on the southern top of the Peninsula is on the anvil. Kuwait has put plans of $132 billion model city in the northern part of the country which will include a railing system which is worth US$ 11 billion and it connects Kuwait with the entire GCC region.

A metro light rail network is also planned in Doha. On the other side, Bahrain is planning a US$ 8 billion railway project stretching to 184 km and will include light rail trains, monorails and other transportation systems.

 At GulfRail, international suppliers will expose their products and services to the key decision makers under one roof. Suppliers will have the opportunity to access and assess the market opportunities, while visitors will compare and source products and services from more than 500 international suppliers. They will also be able to keep up to date on the latest technologies and products developments as well as networking and sharing ideas with more than 20,000 global industry peers.

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