The countries in the Gulf region are set to spend over $100 billion on setting up modern rail networks connecting all countries of the Arabian Peninsula, said an expert citing study reports. These projects will in turn help transform transport and logistics links across the Gulf region, said Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Epoc Messe Frankfurt, organiser of Materials Handling Middle East, the trade and networking event of choice for the materials handling sector in the region.
The expo will be held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre from September 25 to 27. Materials Handling ME aims to provide an access window into this high-growth and high-potential market, which is in process of transformational development, said Pauwels.
On the GCC scenario, he said the continuing high demand for oil and gas as well as the increasing need for cost-effective means to transport goods and services across the region, has led to a spurt in demand for better transport and communications links throughout the Middle East. According to him, the governments in the GCC have been quick to realise this and have instigated plans for multi-billion dollar transport and networking projects that will help further the region’s clout as a magnet for international logistics and engineering service providers.
“With a large number of transport and logistics projects underway in the region, the way materials, resources and goods are transported is set to change dramatically,” remarked Pauwels. The $11 billion UAE Union Railway (or Etihad) is a gigantic project that will ease the flow of goods and resources across the region. The 1,500 km railway project set to connect the entire emirates is due to be completed by 2017.
The project will be phased over several years and will eventually connect the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat city in the West and Oman via Al Ain in the East. Saudi alone is geared up to spend $25 billion on three mega projects set to ease the transport of people and goods across the vast stretches of the Kingdom. The Saudi Landbridge project involves connecting the capital Riyadh with the Red Sea port of Jeddah with important links to the oil and industrial complexes of Jubail and Dammam on the east coast.
“Projects like the Etihad Railway in the UAE, the Saudi Landbridge, the North-South Railway in Saudi Arabia, and a project to eventually link Oman, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait will facilitate easier transfer of goods and services into, out of and across the countries quickly and efficiently," Pauwels added. Also underway is the North South Railway linking Riyadh via Qassim, Hail, Al Jawf, to Al Haditha, with branches to Ras Al Zour and Jubail to connect the bauxite and phosphate mines. While primarily meant to transport freight, authorities are also planning high-speed passenger links going forward. Another mega rail project that has attracted interest internationally is the recent agreement among Qatar, Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to build a railway connecting the landlocked Central Asian countries rich in oil, natural gas and agricultural resources with the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf through Iran. The project will facilitate the efficient transport of Central Asian oil, gas and agricultural products to ports and oil terminals in the Gulf. "These and other infrastructural projects make the Gulf an increasingly attractive destination for logistics and engineering professionals,” he added.