The GCC is steaming ahead with railway projects worth $106.2billion, new research from Ventures Middle East has revealed in the build up to next month's CityBuild Construction Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia leads the way, with a total of 23 projects valued at $25.6billion, including the $6billion Makkah-Madina railway link, which is currently under tender for construction.

In the UAE, eight railway projects valued at $20.6billion are under way, including the $11billion Emirates railway project, on which construction begins in the middle of this year.

Meanwhile, the $25 billion Qatar national rail scheme will link to the GCC railway network, the $30billion, 2,200km system that will connect all six GCC states by 2017.

Other major regional railway developments under way include Kuwait's national railroad network and metro system, worth a combined $17billion; Oman's national freight and passenger railway, valued at $10billion; and Bahrain's rapid transport network at an estimated $8billion.

POSITIVES FOR STEEL SECTOR: What this means is an enormous amount of steelwork in the coming years. It is true that a large part of this work will be pre-fabricated in countries of major main contractors who get the contracts, however there is no denying that a lot of work will flow to the regional contracting houses and the fabrication yards. Ancillary work such as stations, gratings, supports will definitely percolate down to the smaller shops and yards. Maintenance will follow which in itself will create a semi-industry quite new to this region.

Not only will investment in steel machinery, tools & consumables will be required, quality will play an important part in procurement decisions. Fabricators will look to source new machinery adapted to servicing the railway industry, and metal-cutting machinery will also see a surge in demand.

For suppliers to the steel fabrication industry these new developments signify:

• An additional market for conventional machinery, tools & consumables
• A new market for specialized machinery, tools & consumables specifically used in Rail Industry.
• An emphasis on quality and brands of repute, as used by the vehicle industry worldwide • A preference for particular brands a result of brand loyalty of the previous manufacturing base of shifting/expanding manufacturers.
• A new market for metal-cutting machine tools as a manufacturing sector requirement.