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The contract for the construction of the 207km Sohar-Buraimi stretch of Oman's $15bn national railway network is anticipated to be awarded by mid-2015.

At the same time, construction is expected to begin in the third quarter of that year, Nathan Wiles, general maanger (projects) of Oman Rail was quoted as saying by the Oman Tribune this week.

Trains will start running on this stretch by 2018, he added.

A total of 18 consortiums and joint ventures prequalified to participate in the design and build package of the 2,235km-long line. Bids are due in by 21 December, 2014.

The Sohar-Buraimi stretch, representing Segment 1 of the Oman National Railway network, connects the Port of Sohar to the GCC rail network at the Sultanate’s border with the United Arab Emirates at Al Buraimi and Khatmat Milahah. Preliminary design consultant is Italian firm Italferr.

UAE’s Etihad Rail has ordered seven Electro-Motive Diesel SD70ACS diesel locomotives, which have started arriving.

Wiles said: “We will look at what Etihad Rail has and see how that can be applied to the needs in Oman. We are still developing the rolling stock, that is, locomotives, railroad cars, coaches, and wagons and they have to comply with GCC rules. When deciding the type of wagons for freight trains they will consider the type of commodities that have to be transported, like iron ore and gypsum."

He pointed out that Oman Rail has the in-house capability to decide which type is best for Oman although they can go to consultants for advice.

Sohar-Buraimi will be implemented in three sections.

Sector 1A, covering a distance of 127km, connects Sohar station to the Oman-UAE border at Al Buraimi and Khatmat Milahah. It crosses the mountain range between Sohar and Buraimi, following the path of Wadi al Jizzi, where the existing motorway runs.

Sector 1B is a 34km spur line that departs from Sector 1A and ends at Buraimi station. It runs initially through the mountains and ends up in the Buraimi plain. Finally, Sector 1C is a 38km spur line connecting the Sohar Port to Sector 1A.

Also to be constructed along the route are a number of railway facilities, including stations, freight yards, wayside maintenance bases, and maintenance depots. And a further 8km of track will be built to connect junctions at Sector 1A to 1B and 1C.