Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jordan Rail Freight Project Delayed

Initial Tenders Were to be Invited by Last Month
Shipping News Feature

JORDAN – As we predicted last month it seems that the country’s ambitious plans to dramatically upgrade the infrastructure for rail freight has run into trouble, or at least slowed down. Working on the premise that one has to speculate to accumulate Jordan has been planning to invest around $5 billion to accommodate changes of gauge and establish a practical intermodal system. As we have indicated previously government debt levels will act as a disincentive.

The Government planned to receive all tenders for the initial works last month under the guidance of the world’s largest bankers BNP Paribas, with a serious consideration of how to proceed as regards development and management, but with clear objectives as to the scope and method, with track linking Jordan with neighbouring states Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq but also running to Aqaba adjacent to the Israeli border and the country’s only seaport with links for shipping import and export freight.

Modernisation plans for the country’s rail services have been kicking around since the 1990’s with little progress. The government plan to run the new railway company as a state owned enterprise but first all options as to the construction and maintenance must be considered and it is hard to see how the projected timescale of all estimates to be received by latest May 2011 can be achieved now that Jordan have seemingly not officially invited tenders by the end of October as they had planned.

Jordan’s narrow gauge track will all need replacing to match the larger version which all its neighbours use. There are no plans to link with Egypt as a route through Israel seems extremely unlikely and a bridge or tunnel to ford the Gulf of Aqaba would be too expensive and cause political problems.

Photo: Amman Station