Oman’s first-ever road tunnels, which were opened to traffic earlier this month on the newly unveiled Al Sharqiyah Expressway, are offering a foretaste of the motoring experience that is in store when some of the longest tunnels in the Arabian region are constructed in the Sultanate as part of the proposed Diba-Lima-Khasab road project in Musandam Governorate.
As many as nine tunnels aggregating a total distance of 21 kilometres will be drilled through hard mountainous rock along the 55 km length of the carriageway – a strategically vital project that is pivotal to securing the long-term economic development of the far-flung governorate.
In comparison, Al Sharqiyah Expressway offers only two tunnels covering a total distance of 2.1 kilometres, which are the longest in the Sultanate to date.
Bids for the keenly anticipated project, which is modelled on a first-ever Design & Build contract, were due to be opened at the Government Tender Board last week. It was among a slate of major road tenders, offers for which were pencilled in for opening on January 23.
In contention for the contract award are the publicly listed Omani contractor Galfar Engineering & Contracting SAOG and Turkish firm Kolin Insaat, which are the only two companies to have submitted firm offers for the tender, the Tender Board’s website reveals. They were among a total of six local and international contractors that had originally collected tender documents when the Ministry of Transport first launched the competitive tender for the project in 2018.
The successful bidder will undertake what is billed as one of Oman’s most daunting road projects – a 55 km all-weather, coastal-access carriageway that spans plunging ravines and cuts through soaring mountains in one of the most rugged parts of the Sultanate.
In addition to nine tunnels covering a total distance of 21 kilometres, the contractor will also construct 14 bridges, nine major junctions and 11 minor junctions. A further four kilometres of tunnelling could be added to the project if an option for an 8 km additional road component is considered by the Ministry. Both single and dual carriageway solutions are being weighed as well.
As a ‘Design and Build’ project, bidders have had overcome formidable odds in surveying the alignment of the proposed carriageway, large stretches of which are virtually inaccessible. Often, they had to opt for expensive aerial surveys to map the corridor through which the alignment passes. Tunnelling experts were also flown in from Europe to assist in the tendering and cost estimation of one of Oman’s most complex road undertakings.