GCC funding for raft of infrastructure projects in Bahrain

The transport sector is set to be one of the major recipients of investment from a $10bn GCC fund announced to help Bahrain after a GCC meeting in Riyadh in 2011. Four years later, the country’s wealthy neighbours Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE began to supply the money for substantial transport projects, and contractors broke ground on the first schemes to be financed by the fund, which is to be distributed over a 10-year period.

Highway Investment

Bahrain’s road network has been the recipient of a significant injection of GCC funds. Alongside large-scale upgrades to the kingdom’s highway network, including new bridges, flyovers, tunnels and multi-level junctions, the Saudi Fund for Development is financing a BD7.5m ($19.8m) upgrade of intersection two of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Highway (SKBSH). The contractor for the scheme is a joint venture with Bahrain’s Nass Contracting and Saudi firm Al Yamama, while Parsons Global Services is the consultant. A 24.2-metre-wide, two-lane dual carriageway flyover is being built to enable traffic from Hamad Town to access SKBSH from roundabout 18, while a new two-lane dual carriageway connecting the same roundabout with roundabout 13 in Hamad Town is also being built as part of the scheme, with the aim of reducing congestion on Sheikh Hamad Highway and improving access for residents of Hamad Town and western villages.

Meanwhile, financing from the Kuwait Fund is being used for a major roads scheme near Aluminium Bahrain (Alba). With a total budget of BD52.08m ($137.2m), the Alba-Nuwaidrat Interchange scheme is being delivered in three contracts, with the BD3.95m ($10.4m) advanced works starting in October 2014. The bulk of the contract has been awarded to a joint venture comprising Nass and KCC of Kuwait. The company has 36 months to deliver the BD46.9m ($123.6m) scheme. The remainder of the budget, BD1.5m ($3.95m), is being spent on an 18-month consultancy service for the upgrade of Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah Highway (SJASH), named after the late ruler of Kuwait. SJASH runs from north to south through the industrial areas of Sitra and connects to Manama in the north. The contract is being undertaken by the Bahrain office of Kuwait-based consultancy firm SSH and Hyder Consulting. Construction work for the development, which would convert a 9.5-km stretch of the road into a highway with four lanes in each direction, is expected to cost approximately BD80m ($210.8m). The design brief is due to be delivered in February 2016.

In The Pipeline

Road infrastructure projects are also in the immediate pipeline and have either reached the design consultancy stage or are expected to in the near future. They form part of the National Planning and Development Strategy 2030, which aims to enhance existing north-south and east-west strategic road corridors, as well as to develop new routes. The main impetus for the work is to create a network to meet the needs of Bahrain’s growing population. With an annual growth rate of 3%, the country’s population is expected to increase from 1.32m in 2014 to 2.18m by 2030. A BD30m ($79m) upgrade of Al Fateh Highway was the subject of a design consultancy contract in 2015, with plans to upgrade the section of the road from Marina Garden Park to Juffair Junction. In August 2015 the prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, ordered the construction of a tunnel on Al Fateh Highway at Juffair Interchange to reduce traffic congestion, especially for traffic coming into Juffair from north Manama.

Strategic Links

In the same announcement, the prime minister stated that a fourth crossing would be built to link Manama and Muharraq. The Ministry of Works (MoW) was selecting a design consultant for this project in late 2015. The fourth crossing is part of a wider development referred to by the MoW as the North Manama Causeway Phase 2 and Busaiteen Link and is expected to cost BD200m ($526.9m). The scheme will include the development of a 4.6-km section of the North Manama Causeway; the fourth crossing itself, which will be 3.6 km in length; a second phase of the Muharraq Ring Road, which is 4.2 km long; and additional improvements to associated secondary roads. The scheme will create a motorway ring road link from King Faisal Highway near Seef, which will cross the North Manama Causeway at a multi-level junction, with one exit taking traffic over the fourth crossing, known as the Busaiteen Link. The motorway will then skirt around the coast to the north of Bahrain International Airport as it forms Muharraq Ring Road Phase Two, towards Diyar Al Muharraq and Amwaj Islands. The first phase of the Muharraq Ring Road, which runs from Dry Dock Highway towards Diyar Al Muharraq, is under construction.

Dual Carriageway

Elsewhere in the kingdom, the MoW is in the process of selecting design consultants for a BD30m ($79m) project to widen Sheikh Zayed Highway. The highway runs east to west to SKBSH from Sheikh Salman Highway. SKBSH, which carries traffic south from Seef Mall to Bahrain University, is also the subject of proposals to transform it into a five- or six-lane dual carriageway. Costs for the upgrade have been estimated at BD85m ($223.9m) or BD125 ($329.3m), depending on the option selected.

In the summer of 2015 the MoW was due to begin the process of selecting design consultants for a three-level interchange on Dry Dock Highway in Hidd, which is situated in close proximity to the sea port and industrial parks. The Hidd project is valued at approximately BD40m ($105.4m).

Forward Thinking

Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 includes several other developments beyond the scope of immediate road improvement schemes, such as the construction of a new airport and a second causeway which would bring the GCC rail network to the island from Saudi Arabia. The MoW is drawing up blueprints to ensure these developments, currently under consideration, strengthen the kingdom’s capacity to cope with a larger population. While some schemes may be funded by GCC neighbours, others may have to seek alternative financing solutions.

“A second causeway is likely to be financed by a corporation, which will take tolls to pay for the construction costs,” Loay Ghazaleh, advisor to the undersecretary of the MoW, told OBG. “We have also been approached by countries wanting to build schemes for us through public-private partnerships, such as China and South Korea. The costs would be spread out over 30 years and development would be accelerated. A French company has also approached us with a similar proposal.” However these master plans are financed, the number of large-scale projects already in the pipeline demonstrates that the government is determined to provide an efficient transport system for its people and for potential investors.

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The Report: Bahrain 2016

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