$250bn investments in MENA rail projects until 2015

MUSCAT — A project rail boom within the transport sector in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to materialise in the next three years as the region allocates more than $250 billion worth of investments in various rail projects.

The region has one of the lowest density rail networks in the world, with just under 34,000 km of track over a landmass of 15 million square km. The boom in the construction of railway infrastructure is expected to double the track network to 67,000 km and create huge opportunities for local and international businesses — from consultancy and design services to track, rolling stock and communication systems.

This year, there are currently $156 billion worth of rail projects planned or under way in the region, according to projects tracker MEED Projects. Nearly 29 per cent of these are currently being built and 12.5 per cent are currently being tendered.

Not surprisingly, the most active countries are those that cover large areas and have comparatively large populations. Iran has the most projects planned or under way with $34 billion of schemes, closely followed by Saudi Arabia with $31 billion. Other markets with more than $10 billion of projects are Iraq with $13 billion, Kuwait with $14 billion, Qatar $13 billion, and the UAE with $14 billion.

“With governments across the region investing heavily in rail mega projects, the vision of the early railway pioneers to link cities across the Middle East and beyond is finally being realised. MEED’s MENA Rail Projects conference has been designed to provide a critical review of these major projects which will reveal key challenges, insights and business opportunities for the rail industry focused on projects in the MENA region,” said Edmund O’Sullivan, chairman, MEED Events, organisers of the MENA Rail Projects Conference.

However, mega projects in the transport sector in the region come with a myriad of challenges such as interoperability issues, financing and resourcing. Important stakeholders will have the opportunity to dissect these and offer potential solutions and possible business models at the MENA Rail Projects Conference to address projected expansion of the rail network in the MENA region.

In addition, conference attendees will get the inside track from clients on project pipelines and announcements, including updates and developments on the Saudi Landbridge, Haramain High-Speed Rail network, North South Railway, the Doha Metro, an operational assessment of Dubai Metro’s planned Green and Red line networks and Kuwait’s $7bn, 3 line metro network. Government officials and railway operators in attendance will likewise provide real-time project updates and opportunities, such as railway developments taking place in Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Libya; thus providing visitors the opportunity to capitalise on the opportunities in these exciting new markets.

Andrew Price, respected transport economist and former advisor of the UK’s Department of Transport, will present how various stakeholders can capitalise on the rail projects opportunities in the region, exploit favourable market conditions and protect against forecasted challenges in developing markets.

For new work in the near future, different markets will dominate as smaller rapidly growing countries develop urban rail schemes. Qatar currently had $8.5 billion of railway construction contracts out to tender, Iraq has $2.5 billion and Tunisia has $2.1 billion.

The most significant scheme to start construction over the coming year will be in Doha, which recently invited 18 consortiums to bid for five packages on its proposed metro network that will alleviate congestion in the Qatari capital and transport football fans across the city during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The tenders attracted international interest and more than 60 local and international groups attempted to prequalify to bid for construction work.

The MENA Rail Projects Conference is scheduled during October 15-18, 2012 at the Beach Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Oman Daily Observer 2012, Sep 25 2012