Home / ANALYSIS / Full steam ahead for GCC rail projects

Full steam ahead for GCC rail projects

by Gerhard Hope on May 24, 2011

The Chinese-built Holy Sites Metro Light Rail in Makkah in western Saudi.
The Chinese-built Holy Sites Metro Light Rail in Makkah in western Saudi.

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Bowker would not disclose the value of any of the individual contracts. The company aims to finalise designs for the second and third phases by the end of 2011, with construction to begin during the second half of 2012.

It is anticipated that the entire project will be completed by 2018. “That does not leave very much time,” said Hyder Consulting regional rail director Geoff Leffek.

Bowker added that “all options would be considered” for the financing of the project, although he pointed out that, due to the short timeframe for the completion of each phase, a public-private partnership was unlikely.

Etihad Rail’s fleet of trains aim will be able to carry the same amount of cargo as 300 lorries, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The trains would run on diesel, explained Bowker, except for some internal city networks were electricity would be used.

“This project is one of the most strategic and dynamic initiatives that the country is undertaking to ensure the continued growth across all of its striving economic sectors,” said Al Sowaidi at a function at the Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi earlier on in the year to unveil Etihad Rail’s new corporate identity, which incorporates the colours of the UAE flag as a symbol of the national significance of the railway network.

Al Sowaidi said the rail network aimed to provide the country with a modern, safe, and integrated railway network. This flagship project was established by the Federal Government under the patronage of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, in line with major investment initiatives including Vision 2021 and the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030.

“The development of an integrated railway network signifies the inception of a new chapter of transport in the UAE,” said Al Sowaidi. The railway network will form an integral part of the country’s infrastructure, and promote integration between various methods of transportation, both current and planned.

“The UAE has a long and proud tradition as a trading economy, and we at Etihad Rail are developing an extensive rail network that will expand this tradition and further grow the UAE as a logistics hub for businesses and industries in the region and beyond,” said Al Sowaidi.

“The big risk for this region is that there is not a history of public transport. There is not much of a history of transport at all, apart from road transport,” cautioned Leffek.

Built in line with the latest technologies, and in accordance with the highest international standards, the railway will also form a vital part of the greater GCC railway network – facilitating trade, opening up communication channels, and fostering economic and infrastructure development.

“Such a project plays a particularly important role in sustaining national prosperity, driving social development and economic growth, and dramatically improving the UAE’s transport and logistics sectors by linking ports, industry, and population centres.

“The project will contribute to the overall development of the UAE, while also reducing the amount of pollution emitted from freight vehicles on roads, as well as significantly decreasing the number of traffic accidents on highways.