Roundup: Gulf Arab railway sets for bigger boom
DUBAI, Feb 05, 2013 (Xinhua via COMTEX) --
Railway systems providers and wagons
producers queue up at the Middle East's biggest railway
conference, Middle East Rail 2013, which started Tuesday in Dubai.
The three-day fair and exhibition, which runs in its 7th
edition this year, brings together around 90 industry participants
and railway suppliers, among them France's Alcatel-Lucent, General
Electric, and China's IT giant Huawei, who all aim to grab a share
of the region's growing railway market which the event's organizer
Terrapinn estimated at 156 billion U.S. dollars.
According to Long Wei, project manager of overseas business at
China Southern Rails (CSR) Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive Co., the
Gulf Arab states in particular are witnessing a railway boom, but
most projects are still in its early stages.
The oil-rich Gulf countries want firstly to improve their
infrastructure by connecting their countries with railways and
secondly upgrade the export of petrochemical and non-oil goods by
transferring delivery tracks from the street to the steel track,
the manager said.
The start of the Dubai Metro, the Middle East's first
driverless metro system, in 2009 triggered the Gulf Arab states a
boom for new railway projects. In 2012, a whopping 367 million
passengers took a trip with the blue-painted metro, up from 323
million in 2010.
Other significant railway networks on the Arab peninsula exist
only between Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh and the eastern Saudi
oil city Dammam.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) started last year the
construction of Etihad Rail, a 1,200-km-long network that will
connect the seven sheikhdoms comprising Gulf state. The
construction of the first phase of the project worth 900 million
dollars was awarded in October 2011 to Italian companies Saipem
and Tecnimont, and regional company Dodsal Engineering and
In order to upgrade the country's infrastructure for the FIFA
World Cup in 2022, Qatar has awarded Germany's national rail
corporation Deutsche Bahn in 2009 to build with 23 billion dollars
a 325 km-long railway network in the Gulf state, a major gas
"We are building currently one kilometer per day," said Shahid
Khan, project director North-South Railway at Saudi Binladin
Khan added that building a railway track in the Gulf is most
challenging due to the soft desert earth and the heat in the
summer which can reach up to 60 degrees in the summer months." The
soil has to be tightened, labor camps have to be built in the
desert and the sand has to be swept away from the newly installed
track on a daily basis.
In contrast to the underdeveloped grid in the Gulf Arab region,
the Iranian railway network has a total length of 8,160 km.
Huawei aims to equip the wagons on the future railway tracks
with mobile telecommunications technology so that passengers can
also use smartphones and internet in tunnels and underground.
"The potential in the Arab peninsula is huge," said Asela
Dissanayaka, wireless sales manager at Huawei Middle East in
Dubai. "But so is the competition around the Arab railway in the
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