Freight rail network may bypass Muscat: MoTC

Muscat – The proposed freight rail network linking Salalah port and Buraimi might bypass Muscat governorate as per a new plan proposed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC).

The new project consultant will look into this proposal,” said H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Salim al Futaisi, Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) while addressing a gathering at an Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry event recently.

“As per the new proposal, the Salalah port will be linked to Buraimi via Duqm port, Ibri in Dhahirah governorate and Sinaw in the wilayat of Mudhaibi and the rail line will bypass Muscat and Batinah governorates,” he said. “This is expected to reduce project cost as the path does not traverse through mountainous areas.”

The other proposal is to go ahead with the original plan of connecting Buraimi and Salalah port via Sohar port, Muscat and Duqm port. “Now, the consultant’s job is to find out the commercial viability of each plan,” H E Dr Futaisi said.

He said that studies have found that trucks and trailers are the best means of transporting goods within a distance of 200km, while freight rail network is economically viable for transporting over longer distances.

“If we go ahead with the original plan, we might start a passenger train service between Muscat and Sohar due to the area’s high population density and the distance of more than 200km separating the two cities,” he said. “The project will complement road transportation network by linking Sohar, Duqm and Salalah ports as well as important mining areas.”

He said that studies have found that including Salalah port in the freight rail network will boost revenues due to the port’s strategic location. The project will be a catalyst for the country’s all-round economic development. “It will create alternative means to transport goods to several parts of the country. We have started studying the business value of the project.”

He said that the focus is on freight rather than passenger traffic due to the country’s low population density. “For the project to be commercially viable, we need a certain number of passengers using the network daily.

“Citizens across the GCC use personal vehicles for daily use, which might make a passenger rail network commercially unviable. The rail project will boost revenue by transporting cargo and goods.”