DUBAI, June 8 (Reuters) - Bahrain said work on a $3 billion bridge project linking the island to Qatar is on schedule, playing down a report which said the project, aimed at boosting trade and travel between the two Gulf Arab nations, had been put on hold.
Aref Saleh Khamis, assistant undersecretary for financial affairs at Bahrain’s Ministry of Finance and chairman of Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Foundation, told the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) the report was incorrect and that talks are ongoing with the construction group Vinci (SGEF.PA) over its construction.
Sources close to the project told Reuters on Monday that the long-planned bridge had been put on hold with the project team scaled back, amid escalating costs and increased political tension. [ID:nLDE65509V]
“Work on the project is well underway according to schedule, and the board is meeting periodically to assess the stage of studies and technical designs of the bridge... while negotiations are ongoing with Vinci on the actual implementation of the project,” BNA said, citing Khamis.
“The project is very important to the government of Bahrain, which is ensuring all necessary procedures are being taken to start construction works at the soonest and with the lowest cost possible,” he added.
The 40-kilometre causeway linking gas exporter Qatar to the island kingdom of Bahrain was set to play a key role in improving infrastructure connections between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but has been beset by problems.
The project, first announced in 2001, had already been delayed in 2008 to change the project scope to include trains, and late last year the countries said work would start in the first quarter and be completed by 2015.
Contractors for the project, the latest official cost estimate for which stands at $3 billion, include France’s Vinci (SGEF.PA) and Germany’s Hochtief AG (HOTG.DE), Qatari Diar Real Estate and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). (Reporting by Tamara Walid; Editing by Louise Heavens)