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Etihad Rail launches $10.9bn UAE network

Three-phase development will start with Shams-Ruwais freight link

CEO Bowker (right) said 'all financing options would be considered'.
CEO Bowker (right) said 'all financing options would be considered'.

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Etihad Rail, the rebranded master planner behind the first national railway network in the UAE, is to build a freight route between Habsham to Shah, one of three phases in an AED 40 billion project.

The company, formerly known as Union Railway, said it would complete construction of the route between Habsham and Ruwais by the beginning of 2013, and to Shah by the end of 2014. Designs for the second and third phases, which will eventually see all emirates linked across a single network, as well as links to Saudi Arabia and Oman, covering a total 1,200 kilometres.

The first phase route will transport granular sulphate from Sham and Habsham to Ruwais in partnership with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. The two companies had been planning the line for more than a year.

“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 Nasser Ahmed Khalifa Al Sowaidi, chairman of Etihad Rail, in a press conference in Abu Dhabi last night.

Sowaidi said the project aimed to support the country’s economic development, “enhance the transportation infrastructure and improve the investment potential of the UAE through offering an alternative transport network that is efficient and provides ideal logistics platform for current and future industries”.

A tender for the main construction contract for the first phase was issued on 1st March and the company aims to award the contract by the start of summer this year, according to Richard Bowker, CEO. Contracts for the rolling stock for the locomotives and for the wagons are also out to tender.

Bowker would not disclose the value of any of the individual contracts, except to emphasise the AED 40 billion value overall. 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.The whole project aims to be completed by 2018.

He added that "all options would be considered" for the financing of the project, although pointed out that, due to the short time frame for the completion of each phase, a public-private partnership is unlikely.

Etihad Rail’s fleet of trains aim to benefit the environment by being able to carry the same amount of cargo as 300 lorries, reducing CO2 emissions. The trains would run on diesel, explained Bowker, except where some cities would run on electricity for their internal network.

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Construction Week - Issue 749
Sep 15, 2019