The Council of Ministers on Monday gave the go-ahead to a $25 billion GCC railway project, designed to link the six GCC countries through a 2,117-km railway system.
“The Cabinet approved a request from the Transport Ministry to prepare engineering blueprint and proceed with implementation of the railway system,” Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja said.
He said the Cabinet chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah instructed Ministry of Finance to allocate necessary funds for the railway system, scheduled for completion in 2017.
The Cabinet decided a working team should be set up at the ministry to supervise the design and implementation of the Saudi part of the project. A GCC source said work on the railway would start in 2012 after completion of engineering studies.
The project would change transportation patterns in the GCC. Train services across the six GCC states will facilitate movement and travel of GCC citizens as well as expatriates and will boost regional trade.
Beginning from Kuwait, the railway will pass by the eastern Saudi city of Dammam where it will connect with Bahrain through a bridge parallel to King Fahd Causeway before reaching Qatar via Salwa while another line will connect the Kingdom with the UAE through Bathaa. It will run through Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain to reach Oman through Sahar and Muscat. It will also connect Qatar and Bahrain through a bridge. Land acquisition cost for the project is estimated at $3.1 billion while the cost of purchasing trains and locomotives at $1.8 billion. 350 km/hour speed trains will be used.
Khoja said the Cabinet also discussed the National Day that falls on Sept. 23, marking King Abdul Aziz’s efforts to unify the Kingdom. “This day reminds us of the great achievement accomplished by King Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, and the fundamental principles he set to govern the country,” King Abdullah told the ministers.
King Abdullah reiterated the Kingdom’s adherence to Quran and Sunnah and its efforts to proceed with modern development while preserving its traditional values. He also stressed that the National Day celebrations should reflect Saudi values and morals.
The Cabinet agreed to maximize the number of female students benefiting from the school transportation system beginning from the new academic year (2011-2012), especially in regions where the system proved successful.The Cabinet also decided a gradual expansion of the system to cover male students and female teachers from this academic year, starting with selected regions. It will be implemented throughout the Kingdom once found successful.
The Cabinet decided to protect areas reserved for fisheries investment in Jazan and Tihama plains. Coastal fisheries investment projects are exempt from this law.