''The GCC-Europe network may be up and running already in 2018, but this will depend on the decisions made by heads of state in the countries involved,'' Al Muhannadi said. The six member states of the GCC (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) have all begun building national railway networks that will link up with each other in the direction of Jordan, from where passengers will be able to reach Europe via Turkey. Saudi Arabia has already completed its part of the connection with Jordan, noted the planning director of the oil-rich kingdom's railway company SAR, Hamad Al Yousef. The Saudi kingdom is the only GCC member with its own domestic railway system. The plans to extend it are for the 1,000 km of the Landbridge, the part between Jeddah on the Red Sea and Damman on the Arabian Gulf and the 1,300 km North-South Railway between the capital Riyadh to Haditha along the Iraqi border.
The rail system around the Islamic holy cities of Medina and Mecca has already been completed. Qatar, which will be hosting the Football World Cup in 2022, has allocated 35 billion dollars for projects to create 130 km of a four-line underground train network expected to be completed in 2019. The projects will be funded by the Qatari government, while the tendering procedures will be finalised between March and August. A call for tenders will instead be made for the 4.5-billion-dollar link between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in April. The United Arab Emirates has signed an accord with Saipem-Maire Tecnimont to build the first section of its railway.
The entire regional project, in which also Kuwait and Oman are taking part, will be developed along main two lines. An approximately 2,000 km line will connect all the countries of the oil-rich bloc, while a second 1,840-km one will loop through the southern part, between Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. A GCC Railways Authority may also be created by 2014 to organise and coordinate the individual national projects into a vast, unified regional one, it emerged during the conference. (ANSAmed).