Oman's national railway ambitions chug on despite delay in GCC rail network completion
Oman’s ambitious rail link plan has not been shelved, according to the government body which has now taken charge of he project.
While a rail link aiming to connect the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been put on hold following the dip in global oil prices, Oman’s own internal rail network plan is still on track, the government’s logistics group said.
The multi-billion GCC Railway Network - a huge railway system of 2,117 km designed to connect Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Oman - was earlier slated for completion in 2018.
The oil price dip has forced some partner countries in the Gulf to shelve plans for the time being.
The Oman Railway Project is designed to link all three major ports in the country: Salalah, Sohar and Duqm – and would when completed be a vital logistics boost for the country.
“The rail project is still going ahead - we are still working on it. Our engineers are still working on the rail project,” said John Lesniewski, Group Chief – Commercial Officer from the Oman Global Logistic Group (OGLG), during a press meet introducing the new company.
“As you know, when we were developing the rail project, the key starting point of every presentation is that the rail network is going to connect the three major ports and to integrate those ports with the GCC rail networks,” he said.
He added that the GCC rail network has slowed down due to the financial situation and has been reassessed.
“There will be a meeting with the ministers during the fall (autumn) at which time they will assess the new targets for the GCC rail project,” Lesniewski added.
“We will align our Oman rail project with the GCC but the rail project is still going ahead and we are working on it. It is a vital part of the logistics grid that the country will need to be successful,” he said.
“Now, with all this being grouped under one large project, we are definitely coordinating all of our efforts on the sea side and land side. It’s actually an expansion of the project and the scope of our solution, so we are very happy with this development,” said Lesniewski. Oman Rail is a subsidiary transportation company under OGLG, which is a holding firm.
OGLG plans to align stakeholders such as OGL internal, group companies, management and staff under one roof and establish OGLG as an operating business.
They are also helping underperforming businesses improve by identifying improvement opportunities with the company’s management and support.
Integrating mindsets and people as well as developing an innovative and performance driven culture is also part of their plans, including integrating the growing logistics business.
By making the Sultanate the logistics hub in the region, it would serve as a tie between the Far East, India and the Middle East due to its geographic location, and would attract investors which will contribute positively to the Gross Domestic Project.
Ambitious as it may seem, OGLG plans to raise the Sultanate’s GDP to OMR14 billion by 2040 from a little over OMR1.5 billion currently and employ far more Omanis in the logistics sector than the current 35,000 figure.
Nabil Al Bimani, Executive Director – Logistics Strategy, said that they want Oman to be in the top 10 of the World Bank Logistics Performance Index, where this year Oman ranked 48 up from 59 in 2015.
“Oman’s geography is considered one of the best locations for trade. We have three of the best ports in the world and we have a history of trading. So, making Oman the logistics hub will be beneficial to us and our investors as we would be able to connect the Middle East with the Far East,” said Al Bimani.
Trade will be facilitated by building a standard procedure across all departments in clearance, approvals and cargo handling.
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