The oil-rich states of the Middle East are planning for their burgeoning populations – and dwindling oil – by investing in an alternative to the very same private transport that made them rich in the first place. They are building a massive public railway system connecting the six states.
According to Arabian Business, about a quarter of the total $106.2 billion invested between the six Gulf states will come from Saudi Arabia, the richest of the six.
Saudi’s Holy Sites Metro in Mecca, just completed last year, is among its 23 rail projects totaling an estimated $25.6 billion. The kingdom holds a 24 percent share in the $6 billion Mecca-Medina track set to link Saudi’s holiest cities.
Qatar is planning investing $30 billion in track to connect the six Gulf emirates by 2017, and expects to create 7,000 jobs building it, according to the chairman of Qatar Railways Company Ghanem bin Saad Al Saad.
In the UAE, eight railway projects with a combined value of $20.6 billion are under construction. The largest of these, Emirates Railway Project, due to be complete in 2017, will cross 2,500km to connect the country to neighbouring Oman and Saudi Arabia, at a cost of $11 billion.
The remaining investments will be Kuwait’s $17 billion national rail, road and metro system, Oman’s $10 billion National Freight and Passenger Railway, and Bahrain’s $8 billion Rapid Transport Network.
But the massive investment may come too late, even though keeping their populations happy is more crucial for them than ever. Tafline has a great piece on these difficulties: Despite Best Intentions, Gulf Countries Can’t Quit CO2.
By comparison with the expansionist times of the 19th century, when the US united its still new nation with the trans-continental railroad – the future does not look bright for the Middle Eastern oil states.
Between the ill effects of climate change and the gradually depleting oil, the region is already beginning to destabilize. Investing in massive infrastructure is difficult when increasingly, violence endangers huge projects.
Image: Arabian Business
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