Image: Khalid Al-muharraqi / © Muharraqi Studios
Gulf Insider learned about new developments and revamps coming to the Kingdom’s transportation network
Most trade in Middle East has been with countries outside of the region. In 2009 trade between Arab countries accounted for only 11% of the total trade and nearly all of it was carried out by road transport.
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are both taking steps to improve land transport. One development which involves both of these countries is the building of a new bridge connecting northern Bahrain with eastern Saudi Arabia. (There is already an existing link – the King Fahd Causeway.)
“You will not recognize Bahrain after five years,” Mr. Mohamed Mohsen Chief of Special Projects – Roads from Ministry of Works told Gulf Insider, adding: “There are many upgrades coming to the roads here and I assure you Bahrain won’t look the same.” He explains that all major junctions in the Kingdom will be converted to flyovers.
“The Shaikh Jaber, Shaikh Zayed, Isa bin Salman al Khalifa highways will be enlarged and widened. The congested Saar interchange is also to be turned into a flyover in the next two years,” he comments. Mr. Mohsen also spoke about a possible fifth crossing linking Sitra to Manama as well as plans of the Bahrain North Road which will link Manama to Muharraq’s North Town, the location where the new bridge connects to Saudi Arabia.
According to IQPC, both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in their road infrastructure. The road infrastructure and transportation sectors in Saudi Arabia have been allocated $16.8 billion (SR63 billion) in 2015. An estimated $8.9 billion (SR33.5 billion) will be spent to fund nearly 2,000 kilometers of new roads, expansions, railways and infrastructure projects. Bahrain will spend more than $2.5 billion on infrastructure projects including major road networks and construction in the next 10 years. These projects will be funded by A $10 billion GCC Plan, which aims to boost public spending and accelerate the growth of Bahrain’s economy.
However, a 2011 ESCWA report cites a study claiming that investment for transport infrastructure in the region was facing a US$ 40 billion shortfall. Gulf Insider asked Mr. Mohsen if there are sufficient funds to implement the major plans proposed, also considering the recent increases in energy costs and the recently announced railway network which will comprise of 16 stops around the Kingdom.
Mr. Mohsen assures that there are no financial issues since the GCC, Bahrain’s government and its investors are adamant on investing in the country’s road infrastructure. He mentions the only major challenge is time and the priority given to each location’s revamp. “There are sufficient funds to carry these projects through, but we cannot start on them all at the same time, because this will paralyze all of Bahrain. Existing traffic has to be diverted and not to mention, the different ministries involved in transportation infrastructure have their own sets of priorities.”
“At the same time, we need to factor in the railway routes and ensure they don’t conflict with the roads,” he continues. “There is a lot of work and cost of diverging services involved.” Despite the massive undertaking the Ministry of Transportation and others are about to embark on, Mr. Mohsen is highly motivated and aims to resolve all of Bahrain’s congestion zones as well as make more way to accommodate higher number of visitors into the Kingdom.
According to IQPC, these projects, whether large or small, will create opportunities, not just for prime contractors and consulting companies with expertise in road and bridge building, and tunneling, but also for subcontractors in a range of fields, including, but not limited to, bridge modelling, fabrication, tensioning, scaffolding, surfacing, materials provision (e.g. concrete, steel, asphalt) and formwork.