Bahrain plans Orient Express rail link within five years
Royal backing for rail link with Turkey; project could be the latest in string of rail developments across the region.
September 2, 2008 8:00 by kippreport
Bahrain is drawing up plans for a rail route from Manama to Turkey. The route could be up and running within five years, says Gulf Daily News, linking GCC states with Europe for the first time.
The paper says planners are already mapping out possible rail routes from Bahrain and other GCC states to Europe, via Turkey, thanks to a proposal by His Majesty King Hamad.
“Once there is a railway to Turkey, a connection to Europe is the natural thing to happen after that,” said Turkish Ambassador to Bahrain Osman Haldun yesterday.
The news is the latest boost for the rail industry. 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.
In July, 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 said they wanted 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. “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.”