Construction work on the Qatar-Bahrain Friendship Causeway, which was scheduled to begin by the end of this year, is now expected to commence at the start of next year.
“Work on the project will start in 2010 and it is expected to take four-and-a-half years to complete,” Bahrain-based Gulf Daily News yesterday quoted Bahraini Works Minister Fahmi al-Jowder as saying.
The construction of the causeway was originally supposed to begin in May 2008.
“Negotiations are still underway regarding the cost and are expected to be finalised by the end of the year, but initial estimates hover around the $3bn mark. Bahrain and Qatar have already allocated a budget of $500mn to start the project,” he said.
“The two countries are arranging for the finance of the project and it will be shared between them.”
Al-Jowder said a detailed design of the causeway, which incorporates a 13-metre wide railroad bridge, was currently being developed.
“Discussions with the contractor (led by Paris-based firm Vinci Construction Grand Projects) will continue throughout this year,” he said.
The rail road bridge/embankments will be constructed adjacent to the motorway bridge/embankments, which will be 25-metres wide and have a dual carriage way both ways.
Work will first start on the motorway and then in 2012 the civil work will start for the railway bridge to be able to put the rail tracks in place later.
The 40km-long causeway (22km bridge and 18km embankments) will be the world’s longest marine causeway when complete. It will connect the west coast of Qatar near the Zubara fort to the east coast of Bahrain, south of its capital Manama.
“Mobilisation work is underway. The contractor (US-based Kellogg Brown and Root) has requested the two countries to allocate land on both sides for site works,” said al-Jowder.
“We are moving on certain areas, but are probably a bit delayed in other areas.”
With the completion of the causeway, travel time from Qatar to Bahrain by car is expected to be reduced from four-and-a-half hours to around 30 minutes.
According to an earlier estimate, the volume of traffic on the causeway is expected to be around 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles a day. The project also envisages a central island for drivers to rest.
For the ease of travel on the causeway, a dual visa system is expected to be finalised between Doha and Manama whereby a tourist entering Qatar automatically gained a visa to Bahrain.
The freight and passenger rail lines, a later addition to the causeway project, will eventually be extended in each direction connecting Istanbul (Turkey) to Muscat (Oman) and become the main rail link for the Middle East Gulf coast countries.
One of the reasons for the delay in beginning the construction work was the addition of the rail lines, which were not part of the original project. The lead contractors were told to incorporate the rail project into the causeway in August 2008.
According to sources, there will be two rail tracks on the left side of the causeway, one for a passenger train with a maximum speed of 160km/hr and the other for a 120km/hr freight train.
Meanwhile, a new insurance company named Al Jasr has been formed by Qatari and Bahraini investors to meet the needs of the proposed causeway.
The project was given the go-ahead last year following the signing of an agreement by the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Foundation and the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Consortium, led by Paris-based firm Vinci Construction Grand Projects.
The environmental impact assessment of the causeway had started as early as 2002.
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