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Bahrain - Qatar to have High-Speed Train Link

A state-of-the-art high-speed rail-link could soon connect Bahrain to Qatar, taking passengers from Manama to Doha in only 30 minutes.

German firm Transrapid International confirmed that it had been in "close contact with government agencies" in both countries with a view of developing a link, which will transport passengers across the waters of the Gulf at speeds of up to 300mph on one of its famed Maglev trains.

Maglev technology - which involves the suspension of objects by electromagnetic forces - first hit the headlines in 2002 with the opening of the world's first operational high-speed conventional Maglev Railway in Shanghai, and Transrapid now has details of prospective projects for the Gulf region on its website.

Its proposals show two main projects - a 145km rail-link between Manama and Doha, and a further 185km route joining Dubai to Abu Dhabi via Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi international airports.

"The Transrapid and the possibilities it has to offer would be a fitting choice to establish a modern and attractive infrastructure in this economically attractive region," according to the introduction to the proposed project on the firm's site.

The idea has first discussed back in 2005, when former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder led a high-profile German delegation to each of the GCC countries to gauge the local appetite for such hi-tech transportation infrastructure.

There has been little news of the project since, but this week a spokesman for Transrapid confirmed to GDN that the firm was still in negotiations with authorities regarding work on Qatar's internal transportation system and the potential link across the water to Bahrain.

"The Transrapid-Maglev is one potential alternative in the discussion and planning procedure including alternative high-speed rail links inside Qatar as well as across the future bridge to Manama in Bahrain," the spokesman said, adding that the adoption of the Maglev would represent a "futuristic transportation solution" for the region.

He was unable to give more detailed answers regarding the cost or a potential completion date, saying the project's planning stage "has not yet concluded".

Preliminary work has begun on the $3 billion, 40km 'friendship causeway' for motor vehicles to travel between Bahrain and Qatar, and the local authorities have tipped the road-link to bring an influx of investment from a neighbouring Gulf state in the midst of its own economic boom.

The addition of a Maglev link to the causeway - which will make landfall in Bahrain at the small fishing village of Askar and is still officially scheduled to be completed in 2010 - could give Bahrainis the chance to earn higher wages by working in Qatar and yet avoid that country's notoriously expensive real estate by still residing in their homeland.

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