New Bahrain-Saudi causeway to cost $5bn, says minister

Teams from both countries are "still working on other technical issues including financing"

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A second causeway linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia and providing a route for a regional railway network being built by Gulf monarchies will cost about $5 billion, a minister said.

"The cost of the causeway will be roughly $5 billion (3.9 billion euros)," Bahrain's Transport Minister Kamal bin Ahmed told AFP on the sidelines of a two-day business conference, adding that it will be "part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway network."

Details of the project for the causeway -- which will be used by vehicles as well as freight and passenger trains -- will be discussed at a joint meeting next month, he said.

"We have almost finalised the routes of the causeway," he told participants in the conference.

Teams from both countries are "still working on other technical issues including financing," especially on how to get the private sector involved, the minister said.

Ahmed however said no date has been fixed for the start of the project. "We need it to start soon," he said.

Gulf neighbors Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have been linked since 1986 by a 25-kilometre (16-mile) causeway used by several million people every year.

Saudi King Abdullah announced the plan for the new causeway last week in a meeting with King Hamad, saying the new link will be named after Bahrain's monarch.

The GCC railway network, approved by the Gulf leaders in 2004, is expected to be completed by 2017 although progress has been very slow amid political differences between the six-nation alliance which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

The regional network is planned to stretch over a distance of 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) and will cost an estimated $20 billion.

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