Etihad Rail is evaluating bids to connect key cities and industrial hubs in the country and link them to the Saudi border as part of the most important phase of the UAE’s multibillion dollar railway project.
With the first phase of the project under way, the government-owned Etihad Rail has turned its attention to the key 628km of rail lines that will connect Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain, and run to Ghweifat on the border.
The first phase of the project connects the Shah oil and gas field with the port of Ruwais. The railway will transport sulphur from the Shah sour gas project that will begin operating next year. Etihad Rail expects the 264km of rail to be operational before the year is out.
The second phase will extend the section that is running along the coast on both sides, linking the main cities to the border with Saudi Arabia.
Phase two is divided into several packages for the various stretches of rail, as well as the supporting infrastructure. “Tenders for the second phase have been submitted,” said Richard Barrett, chief executive for the Middle East at Atkins, the engineering firm responsible for the concept design for the project.
Etihad Rail’s third phase will run to the Omani border, as well as connecting the oil and gas logistics hub of Fujairah with the rest of the country.
Once all three stages have been completed by 2018, in a construction process estimated to cost Dh40 billion, the UAE will be covered by about 1,200km of track, and the network is expected to boost the economy by facilitating the movement of goods and people.
The UAE’s industrial hubs of Jebel Ali, Mussafah, Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone in Taweelah and Fujairah port outside the Strait of Hormuz will all be connected by Etihad Rail, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi and the federal government. Through its connection to the rest of the GCC, the UAE will be able to build up its position as a regional trade and logistics hub.
So far, Saudi Arabia is the only GCC state with a rail network. More than 1,300km of track connects Riyadh with the kingdom’s main oil-producing region on the Gulf coast and provides transportation for industry and the military.
Saudi Arabia’s Rail Master Plan envisages the construction of a further 5,500km of track by 2025 and includes a line to connect the UAE with Qatar and Kuwait, as well as one that would link up the Gulf and the Red Sea.