Kuwait eyes $11 bln rail network, city metro
KUWAIT Feb 4 (Reuters) - Kuwait is planning to build an $11 billion rail network that will include a metro system for its capital, a Kuwaiti official said on Monday.
The world's seventh-largest oil exporter, like its Gulf Arab neighbours, is spending the windfall from record oil revenues to upgrade its infrastructure.
"We are hoping for the final green light for the project by May," said Saeed Dashti, chairman of the body coordinating the development plans of the Kuwait Overland Transport Union. The plans are under review by the cabinet, he said.
A 245-km (150-mile) line will run from the country's northern border with Iraq to the frontier with Saudi Arabia in the south, with links to the main airport and port, Dashti said.
About 500 km of rail will be laid at a cost of 1.8 billion dinars ($6.59 billion) and will form part of a planned network across the Gulf region, Dashti said.
In Kuwait City, where traffic clogs roads during rush hour, a four-line, 171-km metro is planned at a cost of 1.3 billion dinars, Dashti said. The project would be 65 percent above ground and 35 percent underground, he added.
If it goes ahead, the rail network will be 50 percent financed by the government, and 50 percent through the private sector. Several companies would be set up to undertake different parts of the projects, with IPOs offered in each, he added.
Construction should start in 2009 for completion in 2017, Dashti said.
With Gulf countries witnessing annual population growth of between 5 to 10 percent, cities are increasingly facing congestion, forcing governments to spend on improving infrastructure.
Dubai is expected to complete the first phase of a two-line $4.4 billion metro extending about 70 km by September 2009.
Other Gulf cities including Riyadh, Mecca, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, are also planning rail systems. (Reporting by Simon Webb; Editing by David Cowell)
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