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Kuwait City and Riyadh take first steps towards rail link

Passengers on a train in Saudi Arabia. GCC countries have been talking about an international rail network since at least 2004 Alamy via Reuters
Passengers on a train in Saudi Arabia. GCC countries have been talking about an international rail network since at least 2004
  • Kuwait-Saudi committee approves study
  • ‘Important step’ in relationship
  • Plans dependent on energy prices

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have approved a feasibility study to investigate building a rail link between Kuwait City and Riyadh.

The study was approved during the sixth meeting of the Kuwait-Saudi higher steering committee, Kuwait’s minister of public works and minister of state for municipal affairs Noura Al-Meshaan told the Kuwait News Agency on Thursday.

Saudi minister of transport and logistic services Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said the announcement was “an important step on the road to enhanced strategic cooperation between the two countries”.

The Gulf states held talks in January to enhance trade and investment between the two neighbours.

Trade volume between the two countries reached approximately SAR11 billion in 2022 and amounted to more than SAR6 billion until July 2023, the Saudi Press Agency reported in January this year.

During the talks, the two sides agreed to sign an agreement on a railway project, but no further details were given.

Kuwait announced in December it was cancelling plans for a metro as a result of “significant administrative and financial burdens on public funds”.

“Kuwait continues to suffer from chronic political gridlock as its restive parliament clashes with the government, constraining project implementation and deterring foreign investment,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said.

Despite this setback, the six members of the GCC – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar – have been talking about an international rail network since at least 2004. 

Completion was originally scheduled for 2018, but the project suffered a setback when global oil prices plunged in 2014.

The plans were jump-started two years ago when the six members met at AlUla in Saudi Arabia and established the Gulf Railways Authority.

James Swanston, Middle East economist with Capital Economics, said the timeline for rollout of the Gulf-wide network will remain heavily dependent on energy prices. Railways compete with other huge infrastructure projects across the region that are reliant on petrodollars.

“The resumption of works in the past year or so isn’t surprising given the oil windfall the Gulf states have received,” Swanston said in December.

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