Law Updates

Oman Joins the GCC Railway Project: An Overview

On June 20, 2023, His Majesty issued Royal Decree 41/2023, marking the country’s official entry into the General Agreement for Connecting the States of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf to the Railway Project.

Exploring the Framework of the Agreement

The General Agreement involves all GCC states: the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman, State of Qatar, and State of Kuwait. Its primary purpose is to integrate and coordinate the operation of the GCC railway project with the national railway networks of the member states. This coordination is to be carried out by the Gulf Railway Authority, which was established in December 2021. The agreement also sets the framework of policies, legislation, and a technical specifications booklet for the project.

Unpacking the Operational Commitments and Railway Linkage Principles

Member states are required to adhere to certain technical specifications, including compatibility of the railway infrastructure with trains intended for cargo and passengers, effective interconnection of information and communication systems, and compliance with agreed technical specifications for interoperability, in line with approved international standards.

The agreement outlines the principles of railway linkage between the GCC states, which include ensuring safe, economical, environmentally friendly transport of passengers and goods, deepening trade and economic exchange, and ensuring the reliability of services. It also stipulates that each member state must complete project implementation on time, maintain their railway networks, cooperate with the Authority, and issue necessary regulations to meet obligations.

Understanding Approval Mechanisms and Operational Protocols

The agreement outlines the approval process and decision-making by the committees involved in the project. Each member state is required to designate a body responsible for the project’s implementation and operation and provide a detailed work plan to the Authority.

The agreement further states that each member state should monitor any actual or potential changes that could significantly impact the arrangements of the convention and communicate any such changes to the Authority for coordination.

Dispute Resolution and Amendments

In case of a breach of obligations by a member state, the protocol stipulates that affected states can request an emergency meeting of the Board of the Authority to discuss the breach. Any disputes arising between member states about the agreement should be resolved through the Board of the Authority or referred to international commercial arbitration if an amicable resolution is not possible.

It stipulates that the agreement will become effective once the second member state deposits its instrument of ratification. It appears that Oman is the first country to ratify this agreement.

Looking Forward

The issuance of Royal Decree 41/2023 marks Oman’s official participation in the General Agreement for Connecting the States of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf to the Railway Project. When this agreement enters into force, all member states, including Oman, will strive to adhere to the terms outlined in it. The coming years will see the unfolding of a concerted regional effort to achieve robust rail connectivity.

You can read the agreement in full in English in the link below: