First GulfRail event scheduled for 2012

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By Ben Roberts www.constructionweekonline.com

GulfRail 2012, the region’s first exhibition and conference for rail initiatives in the region, will make its debut at Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre from 17th-19th April 2012.

The event was jointly announced today at a press conference by the emirate’s Dubai’s Al Fajer Information & Services, IMAG of Germany, Europoint of Netherlands and Dubai World Trade Centre.

GulfRail 2012 will highlight the latest information and technologies in Rail and Tunnelling Systems, and will serve as a strategic networking platform for global industry experts.

The launch of GulfRail at DWTC reinforces the robust state of the Emirate’s exhibitions industry and is testament to Dubai’s position as the gateway to the Region, said Michael Watton, director of commercial and venues at Dubai World Trade Centre, the host venue.

Rail projects in the GCC such as Union Railways and the Dubai Metro have seen investments of billions of dirhams.

These include the 1,500 km countrywide AED40.4 billion railway network in the UAE to be rolled out over the next 7-8 years, and Abu Dhabi’s plans for a new rail network serving the city of Al-Ain in the emirate’s Eastern Region.

The Sultanate of Oman also began plans for the building of national railways to boost the country’s infrastructure. Oman appointed consultants to conduct a feasibility study of a 200 km railway network that will begin in Sohar to connect Bikra in north Muscat and then extending to Duqum.

Saudi Arabia is spending SR93.7 billion on its rail network, adding 3,900 kms of track through three major projects. Saudi Arabia has already begun work on four different railway projects.

This includes a 1,000 km land-bridge, East-West Railway project, running from Jeddah and Dammam over the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, and the Haramain High Speed network which will link Madinah and Makkah via the King Abdullah Economic City – an initiative by the Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO).

On Sunday a spokesperson for Saudi Railways Organisation, Mohammed Abu Zaid, told reporters that the project will be completed in 2012.

Satish Khanna, general manager at Al Fajer Information and Services, said that it will be common for a person to travel from Dubai to Jeddah or Abu Dhabi to Doha in few hours, with convenience.

“Abu Dhabi has joined the fray with 131 km metro rail system which is expected to partially start in 2015,” he said. “Last year, GCC transport ministers approved a feasibility study for the US$ 12 billion GCC railway. Further, on a broader perspective, the network would extend from the GCC to Jordan, Syria and Turkey. The next move would be a more extensive system linking up with systems providing access to Europe and Asia via Turkey.

He added that public-private partnerships would be the key driver for the industry.

Harald Müller, CEO of IMAG Internationaler Messe und Ausstellungsdienst GmbH added: “GCC is in need of information about the latest technologies, experiences and expertise in other countries in the world. Also, the region is interested in getting in contact with key players in the international rail and tunnel sector.GulfRail will offer an international sustainable platform for rail and tunnelling experts in the entire world to target the rapidly growing railway industry in the Gulf.”

Johan Haarhuis, managing director of Europoint B.V. Conference & Exhibitions, added: “The overall objective of GulfRail 2012 is to facilitate the establishment of a reliable, effective and frequent high speed rail network connecting GCC countries. The event will mainly focus on investment opportunities and intelligent transport systems. GulfRail 2012 has great potential to be successful in the Middle East region.”