A rail link between Turkey and the six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is currently being studied by regional engineers, The Media Line has learned.
The idea was first suggested by Bahraini King Hamad Bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa during his recent visit to Turkey, where he met with President ‘Abdullah Gul.
Regional observers said that although the suggestion came as a surprise to the Turkish side, the timing was nevertheless “perfect” to start working on such a project, thanks to the developing economic and political relations between the GCC and Turkey.
The GCC countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman – are currently carrying out a feasibility study on a proposed $6 billion rail network linking all six countries.
“The GCC countries will receive in December a cost estimate for the railway project,” an informed source in the GCC told The Media Line. “Then, the countries will have five months to respond to the proposal. If and when the project begins, it will take approximately four years to complete. Meanwhile, we are beginning to study the new proposal to link this rail network to Turkey.”
If the project is authorized, the planners will have to decide the route of the railway. One option is to connect the GCC countries with Turkey directly through Iraq. However, the chaotic security situation in Iraq may hinder such an option, paving the way to a more plausible one: directing the railway through Jordan and Syria.
In any case, most of the railway is expected to run through Saudi Arabia, with the King Fahd Causeway being an integral part of either option.
The GCC states signed an agreement to establish a free trade zone with Turkey in May 2005. Negotiations are currently expected to begin in order to implement the agreement, the Bahraini news agency reported.
News of the proposed rail project has been met with considerable cynicism by many Bahrainis.
“These projects come a dime a dozen,” said one company CEO.
“Other rail networks have been proposed in the past but never came to fruition,” he added.
The businessman also pointed to the case of an aborted proposal for a Bahraini tram system.