Muscat pushes on transport upgrade

Despite a new wave of transport infrastructure schemes, Oman still lags behind neighbouring GCC states

Oman has taken significant steps towards developing its transport network, which will include a national railway and the country’s first dual four-lane motorway. But Muscat still has some catching up to do compared with the more advanced transport projects in the rest of the GCC.

The UAE is close to finishing its first phase of a national railway, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar have awarded billions of dollars-worth of construction contracts in recent months.

In contrast, Oman’s plans to build a national railway stalled midway through last year after it was decided the project would be retendered. The scheme is now gathering pace again. Consultants submitted bids for the project management contract on 26 August and earlier in the month Italy’s Italferr won the $37.3m contract for the preliminary design work.

There has also been a spate of road contracts awarded in recent weeks. In August, packages five and six of the $2.6bn, 260-kilometre Batinah Expressway scheme were both awarded. The four-lane road will connect Sohar, Muscat and the UAE and help speed up the transportation of goods from Oman’s expanding ports and airports around the region.

The Muscat government also announced plans to build a new logistics centre in the Batinah South region, designed to help support the growing traffic at Sohar Port.

The new impetus driving Oman’s transport projects will help the country realise its ambitions of becoming a major trade and transport hub for both interregional and Asia-Africa trade. However, Muscat will need to maintain, if not increase, this level of momentum to compete with the rest of the GCC effectively.