Omani contractors are, of course, expected to form joint venture partnerships or forge alliances with the prequalified bidders when tendering for the main Design & Build package, covering Segment 1 of the network, opens in the third quarter of this year.

Prequalification documents were floated recently for the Civil Infrastructure and Railway Track D&B Contracting Services Package (Main Contractor). Similar documents were also issued for the prequalification of contractors for Railway Technology Systems.

Interest in either package is understood to be strong with scores of international, and local companies as well, collecting documents since the prequalification process opened on 17 February 2014, say officials.

But in a clear demonstration of its intent to develop high-quality and robust rail infrastructure, Oman Rail has set stringent minimum qualification criteria that seek to attract only the world’s finest rail contractors to participate in the bidding process.

Contractors seeking to prequalify for the D&B package must have experience in the final design and construction of a single railway infrastructure project in the last five years with a total project construction value of more than USD 1bn. Also, they should have undertaken the detailed design and construction of at least one railway tunnel or road tunnel of at least 500m in the last five years.

Crucially, prospective bidders should also have experience in the final detailed design of railway civil infrastructure for at least one major railway project in the last five years covering at least 200km of double track (with design speed of at least 160kph).

These minimum qualification criteria underscore efforts by Oman Rail — the national railway company — to procure a high-standard network that is not only durable but also performs well over the long-term.

They also take into account local weather conditions and the desert environment, as well as the need to ensure the timely completion of the line, while also achieving the highest possible In-Country Value (ICV).

Targeted for initial implementation is a 171km segment from Sohar City to Al Buraimi on Oman’s border with the United Arab Emirates. As part of its scope, the selected contractor will undertake a detailed design based on the preliminary design submitted by Italferr, the Italian rail consultancy appointed as the preliminary design consultant (PDC) for the national railway project.

The final detailed design will cover the alignment and earthworks, railway track, tunnels, bridges and other structures, Operations & Maintenance Centre, ancillary facilities, railway stations and utilities.

Civil works constitute a key component of the D&B package. It covers all the required earthworks, track work, switches and crossings, construction of railway depots, freight and operational facilities, railway maintenance compounds, highways and access roads, drainage channels, railway embankments and sand mitigation zones.

Also as part of its remit, the D&B Contractor will build all structures, including railway tunnels, under-bridges and over-bridges, camel bridges, culverts and crossings for pipelines and utilities. Facilities for freight, loading and unloading, operations and maintenance buildings, are included as well.

The railway technology systems package for this segment will be executed by the nominated prequalified contractor who will be subcontracted by the main contractor. Integration, testing and commissioning of the network are also the responsibility of the main contractor.