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Kuwait’s $132bn Silk City lets the train take the strain

July 23, 2008 7:43 by

rail, network, kuwait, silk city, $132bn, gccIf the UAE is hoping to be the future center of the airline industry (Emirates ordered $34.9bn worth of Boeings and Airbuses in November 2007, Etihad ordered $43bn worth last week), Kuwait has laid down a marker for the world’s rail industry hub.

In revealing plans for its $132bn Silk City - a new town featuring a 1,001-metre skyscraper, wildlife reserves, and homes for 700,000 people - Kuwait’s urban planners say they want to build an international rail network linking the development to Damascus, Baghdad, Iran and China.

“We’re thinking on a different plane, because we cannot afford to think like everyone else. We’re thinking about something that might seem unimaginable,” Sami Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies told Reuters in London, where he is holding meetings on the project. “We’re going to outmaneuver everybody who is going to remain in the old mode of thinking about economic prospects.”

There are no details yet of the rail technology planned, but with oil revenues at an all-time high, the project has a bumper budget. Earlier this year it was estimated to be $86bn; this week it’s up to $132bn. The railway planners are likely to be looking at France or Japan for inspiration and technology, rather than India.

“This is where we want to put our money. We want to build railways all the way to China,” said Alfaraj. “If we do not use oil or money to increase our influence in a peaceful way, we have no existence.”

The GCC states are currently carrying out a feasibility study on a proposed $6bn rail network linking all six countries. The UAE also plans a $3bn, 700km network connecting Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah to Ghewaifat through Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Saudi plans a $3.5bn ‘landbridge’ linking Jeddah on the west coast to Dammam on the east, via Riyadh.

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