Qatar eyes 2022 for key links in $23 bln rail deal

* Qatar wants most of the $22.8 bln project built by 2022

* Finish line for the rail way expected in 2026

* Project one of German industry’s largest foreign deals

DOHA, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Qatar aims to have most of a 17 billion euro ($22.79 billion) rail project with Deutsche Bahn built by 2022, officials said on Sunday after signing one of the biggest-ever foreign deals for German industry.

Construction will run until 2026 on the project, which includes freight and passenger trains and a metro. Qatar also aims to build a connection to neighbouring Saudi Arabia via a 40-kilometer causeway, one of the world’s longest, to Bahrain. [ID:nGEE5AL07P]

Qatar is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas with economic growth expected around 9 percent this year and is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure, real estate and economic diversification projects.

In addition, Gulf Arab states are spending more than $100 billion on rail projects to ease congestion as they tackle poor public transport networks and growing population.

An agreement to execute the project was signed on Sunday in Doha by Ghanim bin Saad al-Saad, chief executive of state-owned Qatari Diar, and Ruediger Grube, chief executive of Deutsche Bahn AG [DBN.UL].

The project includes a joint venture between Qatari Diar, the real estate arm of the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, with 51 percent, and Deutsche Bahn, the state-owned rail operator, with 49 percent to execute the integrated network, which it has negotiated for years with Deutsche Bahn.

The whole project is expected to be completed in 2026 but a major portion of the work will be completed by 2022, when Qatar hopes to host the FIFA World Cup, officials said.

German media have reported that the deal would likely involve German industrial group Siemens SIEGn.DE in supplying trains and the German building industry in the construction of the rail network.

The Qatar Railway Development Company (QRDC) will be the sole entity responsible for developing and integrating the rail network, officials said.

Diar’s Saad said QRDC was preparing to identify additional partners needed to undertake the massive development.

“We are working on different financial modules and the details will be announced in due course,” added Saad.

The network will integrate Qatar’s east coast rail link, a passenger and freight railway line, and connect oil and natural gas hub Ras Laffan in the north with the refinery town of Mesaieed in the south, via Doha, and a high-speed link between the new Doha international airport and the city’s centre.

The network will also connect to Bahrain via the Qatar-Bahrain causeway, a freight rail link based on the Gulf Arab rail network and Doha Expressway studies, a comprehensive Doha Metro Network, based on the Qatar Transport Master Plan and multiple light rail people mover networks in Lusail, Education City and West Bay. (Writing by Thomas Atkins in Dubai; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter) ($1=.7458 Euro)