Railway developments and regulations in the Middle East
Colleagues Gurmeet Kaur (Partner) and Rita Allan (Senior Associate) from global multinational law firm Eversheds Sutherland analyse the progress of the Gulf Railway Project and the key legislation supporting its development.
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The history of cross-border rail transport in the Arabian Peninsula can be traced back to the early 20th century when the Hejaz Railway was constructed between 1900-1908 linking Damascus in Syria to Medina in Saudi Arabia1. Although constructed to fulfil the noble objective of facilitating pilgrimages to the holy site of Mecca, the Hejaz Railway’s fate was short-lived as it fell victim to the repercussions of the Arab revolt against the Turkish rule and the First World War. The Hejaz Railway was destroyed and completely abandoned in 1917.
Over a century later, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is now embarking on the Gulf Railway Project (also known as the GCC Railway Project) – one of the largest contemporary cross-border rail networks in the world. The GCC Railway is intended to connect all the six GCC nations with a railway track running through key cities of each of these nations. A pan-GCC rail network also means that each GCC country would be working individually on its own railway infrastructure.
With a total price projection of over $240 billion2, the GCC Railway Project was initially targeted to be completed in 2018. However, in the aftermath of the recent oil price plunge, completion deadlines have been pushed to 2021. Although authorities remain hopeful that the project will meet its 2021 deadline, completion will ultimately depend on the internal plans of each country and appears challenging.