Abdullah al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Public Works, has called for coordinated work by member nations on the GCC rail network, and has said that upcoming meetings will discuss the project's requirements and specifications.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Nuaimi said that most GCC nationals prefer travelling by road, but movement of people between Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar will be simplified with a rail network.
“The system will make mass movement during pilgrimages simpler and faster,” he said.
Regarding the completion date of the GCC rail network project, which was earlier announced as 2017 or 2018, Nuaimi said, “I probably think that it should be deferred to another date. I know for sure that Saudi Arabia and UAE have started their part".
Adding that he is "not aware of any tangible development from other countries. It is still feasible to have the network ready as planned; we have enough time to at least get the cargo facilities ready.”
He said that it would be logical to start with cargo and upgrade to passenger facility at a later stage.
“There will be two GCC meetings leading up to the fourth Middle East Rail Opportunities Conference in Riyadh,” he said.
“All GCC governments agree on the need to have a railway network. However, we will discuss compatibility at those meetings and we would have to agree on requirements and specifications. Our activities need to be coordinated. It would be illogical to have the network built according to varying specifications,” he added.
Nuaimi said the rail network will be popular among GCC nationals, “The perception is that GCC nationals prefer to use their cars, but the logistics of moving people between Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar will be simplified with a rail network.
“For the pilgrimage to Hajj or Umrah, for example, many people would prefer taking the train instead of driving or flying as train travel is safe, economical, clean and fast,” he explained.
He added that mass transportation methods have proven to be sound investments worldwide, and other advantages are reduction in truck traffic and carbon dioxide emissions.
“When we built the Dubai Metro, people had doubts, but its popularity has exceeded all our expectations as 350,000 people use it on a daily basis. I believe the GCC railway network’s popularity will exceed our expectations as well,” he added.