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A causeway project to link Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by rail may miss its current completion target of 2018, according to Bahrain’s Minister of Transport Kamal bin Ahmed.

The deadline and funding for the causeway, which is part of the $15.5bn (SAR: 4.1bn) Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway project, is set to be determined by September following a joint study by the two countries.

Ahmed told a Bahraini radio show that both countries’ ministries of transport and finance are studying the “best way to finance and technically develop” the causeway.

“The target is 2018; I’m not sure if we can achieve it. It’s something we will identify at the end of the study in September 2014,” he said.

“I hope during the next few years we will expedite this project but it’s big, it’s complicated and we need to make sure that we do it right.”

The link between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will be built in parallel to the existing King Fahd Causeway, which currently brings in five million visitors to Bahrain annually, he said.

Bahrain is also planning another causeway with Qatar as part of the 2,177 kilometre (1,353 mile) GCC Railway project to connect the six Gulf countries.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have begun construction of their own railway tracks.

“It’s a strategic project. It’s a critical project for us in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. We want it to happen as soon as possible but we’re still at initial stages,” Ahmed said, adding that the 2018 completion target is “very challenging” and that all the GCC countries are behind schedule.

The project is expected to boost the economy of Bahrain by improving passenger and cargo links with its top trading partner, Saudi Arabia, he said.

“If we have this project it means everything will be done faster, more efficiently and will enhance and enable growth,” Ahmed added.