Bahrain-Saudi causeway expansion plan set
Manama, December 12, 2011
An ambitious plan to expand the King Fahad Causeway which connects Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is in the pipeline, including the creation of new man-made islands.
News of the project emerged yesterday (December 11) as Bahraini Customs officials and their Saudi counterparts held a key meeting to discuss issues including massive truck delays at the border crossing.
It follows months of tailbacks on the Bahrain side of the bridge, with truckers sometimes queueing up to four days to enter Saudi Arabia.
'The increase in the number of trucks passing through the causeway daily is a normal growth,' Customs Affairs chief Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa told a Press conference before the meeting.
'Based on a study carried out to look into the expansion project, causeway authorities should allocate two islands, one on each side of the border.'
It is understood that both man-made islands are yet to be reclaimed. The study was carried out by causeway authorities to meet the significant increase in commercial and passenger traffic by 2020.
Shaikh Mohammed revealed the project had been approved by His Majesty King Hamad and the property deed was sent to the authorities concerned last month.
'The project has been approved and has been sent to the parties concerned for the planning and design phase,' he said. 'This meeting will address that and also several Customs procedures that will be implemented by both sides soon to tackle the problem of traffic backlogs at the causeway.'
However, the outcomes of the meeting were not revealed yesterday.
Offi-cials did say backlogs at the causeway were a direct result of a significant increase in trade between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
'Initially, the causeway was built to withstand 150 trucks, but now we deal with 1,200 trucks daily,' revealed Saudi Customs manager and King Fahad Causeway director-general Saleh Al Khileiwi during the Press conference.
'This is a result of the growth in trade which has increased to BD3.4 billion ($9.06 billion) (BD3.4bn) annually, and we are extremely happy about this growth.'
Al Khileiwi also maintained that the land on the Bahraini side of the border was too small, which exacerbated truck queues.
'On our end we have a large waiting area for trucks that smoothly go through the Customs process without affecting passenger traffic,' he said.
'But the land area in Bahrain is small and can only hold up to 80 trucks at a time, which is not enough.'
The overall causeway expansion project, believed to cost more than BD6 million, is designed to dramatically increase the number of lanes.
Our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News earlier reported that the number of departure lanes would increase from 10 to 17 and the number of arrival lanes from 13 to 18 on both sides of the border.
An anticipated surge in the amount of two-way traffic means authorities are now drawing up a long-term strategy to cope with the rush.
Only last month wasteland on the Bahrain side of the causeway was turned into makeshift truck stops as hundreds of drivers waited for a chance to cross into Saudi Arabia.
Customs officials have since prioritised the entry of trucks according to the cargo they carry, after companies claimed perishable goods were being spoiled because of delays.
The truck crisis, which first returned more than two months ago, appeared to have been resolved at the beginning of November following the intervention of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
Saudi border authorities then appeared to speed up the processing of heavy goods vehicles, but the problem came back.
Truckers have at times been in queues stretching several kilometres. – TradeArabia News Service