Since all the countries of the GCC region seem to agree – and have done so for some time – that the construction and operation of a rail network is the answer to a whole series of logistical problems, why is so little progress being made?

There was endless debate about the building of the “Bahrain Causeway” linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia years ago, delays, procrastination, horror stories of what it might entail and yet, since it opened in 1986, the results have been immeasurable, making the two GCC neighbours almost indivisible from each other. As one Bahraini put it to me recently: “We used to be cousins, we are now brothers.” Currently, similar debate surrounds the proposed link between Qatar and Bahrain.

Yet the answer to so many of the region’s logistical and, yes, security issues, could be solved by the planning and execution of a modern rail system to bear the lion’s share of GCC regional transportation woes.

With the area’s thriving – and fast developing – ports, and the industries that have grown up around them, rail would seem to be the obvious answer. Ordinary Gulf road users – whether their journeys are for business or pleasure – should not be forced to share the highways with some of these mega-vehicles, belching fumes and pollution across towns and inner cities and while everybody seems to acknowledge that rail networks are the answer, nobody seems to be competent or willing to start the ball rolling.

Paul Cross

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

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