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Ambitious strategy ready to start

06 Sep 2010

JORDAN: Following the completion of a feasibility study by BNP Paribas, Minister of Transport Alaa Batayneh hopes to call tenders this year for development of three routes totalling 1080 km under a PPP concession. The government began land acquisition last year, and construction is expected to begin in 2011 with the first lines opening in 2014-15.

The ministry's long-term aim is for Jordan to become a transit point on a rail corridor between Europe, the Middle East and the Gulf. Expected to cost 2·4bn dinars, the new network would join existing lines in Iraq and Syria and the North-South Railway in Saudi Arabia, providing connections to the proposed lines linking the Gulf Co-operation Council countries.

Under the build-transfer-operate model, it would be funded by a state-owned company, which could borrow money more cheaply than the private sector. The private partner would build the network and then hand it over to the government, but would continue to operate the railway and pay fees to use the infrastructure. Traffic is expected to include oil and minerals from Saudi Arabia and cement from Jordan to Iraq. According to the consultants, annual revenues would grow from 229m dinars in 2015 to 365m in 2030 and over 1·4bn in 2050. Batayneh says passenger services are 'not feasible at this stage' but may become an option in the future - the North-South Railway project includes proposals for a Riyadh - Amman train.

According to the ministry, the first line would replace the near-moribund 1050 mm gauge Hedjaz Jordan Railway between the Syrian border and Zarqa and connect to the Saudi border. The second stage would add lines to Aqaba on the Red Sea, replacing the current narrow-gauge phosphate line, and from Mafraq to Irbid.

The third segment would run east to the Iraqi border, but no timescale has been set for this. Batayneh says the Iraqi government's current priority is to restore its existing railway and establish a link with Iran.