A planned railway system connecting the GCC to Europe via Jordan and Turkey could be ready by 2018—transforming the shipping industry and passenger travel routes in the process, rail company officials said yesterday.
“There are plans and proposals put forward to connect Europe and the GCC but they depend on the decisions by the heads of states and the economic conditions in all the countries,” said Saad Al Muhannadi, chief executive of Qatar Railways Company .
The GCC-Europe rail connection could become a reality by 2018 depending on each of the countries involved, he said. The Saudi Railway Company (SAR) has already completed the Kingdom’s rail connection to Jordan, said Hamad Al Yousef, civil and track director of projects at SAR.
The Gulf-Europe rail has massive potential for passengers and freight, he added. “It is very lucrative for passengers. There are people from Jordan and Egypt and others who come to work in Saudi and use those roads to commuteâ¦they could take the rail to Europe from there,” he said.
When the project is ready it could reshape the shipping industry by transferring some of the cargo directly via rail rather than taking longer shipping routes, rail company officials said. “Our ports are flooded with containers. We could take a chunk of them through rail,” said Al Yousef.
Railway officials called on immigration authorities in the GCC to ease visas for expatriates living in the Gulf so they could commute easily between the GCC countries  once the railway is completed.
“There should be co-ordination with immigration and a discussion between immigration departments in each country,” said one company official .