In the context of the continuing quest to build a better future and moving forward with the national economy, the UAE has established Etihad Rail. In order to manage the development, construction and operation of the United Arab Emirates’ national freight and passenger railway network in the country.
In December 2015, Etihad Rail -the developer and operator of the UAE’s national rail network- got the start signal for Commercial activity, after getting approval from Federal Transport Authority.
Phases of the project
Etihad Rail is working on the development of a giant, 200-kilometre rail network across the country, with a total cost of about AED 40 billion.
The company has been able to complete the first phase of the project (Shah -habshan), which extends over 264 kilometers along to the port of Ruwais, and can transport about 22,000 tons of Sulphur per day.
By the end of last January, the company announced that it transferred about 4 million tons of Sulphur from the Shah and Habshan fields, to the port of Ruwais in the Western Region, for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). To announce later in April, that it had transfer more than 5.24 million tons of Sulphur within 18 months, as part of the first operational phase of the project.
According to the official website of the company, until this moment, more than 7.4 million tons of Sulphur had been transferred for (ADNOC), which is equivalent to 494 thousand truck trips.
The second phase of the national rail network project, is located on an area of 574 kilometers. That extends from Ruwais to Ghweifat up to the borders with Saudi Arabia, and from Tarif to Dubai and Al Ain to the borders with Oman.
Last January, the company announced that it has suspended the tendering process for the second stage of the project. A declaration that came about a week after the company announced it will reduce its staff numbers.
“The company has suspended the current stage two tender process, while it reviews the most appropriate options for the timing and delivery of this phase of the project,” Etihad Rail explained in a statement.
“This decision will have no impact on stage one operations, and all bidders have today been informed [of the suspension] in writing.” The company added.
Etihad Rail is committed to the delivery of the UAE’s national railway network, in line with its mandate, and it continues to work closely with partners and stakeholders in the UAE and on a GCC level. In order to assess the most appropriate timeline for the construction of Stage Two.
At the meantime, Etihad Rail is still working on an appropriate schedule to begin the implementation of the second phase, in cooperation with its strategic partners in the UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In an effort to create an integrated network of railways in the United Arab Emirates.
The third phase of the project extends over 362 km, from Dubai to the Northern Emirates, including areas such as Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah. A stage through which the company is trying to link the rest of the parts of the network in the UAE, and also to attract more investors and future partners for the project.
A quantum leap in infrastructure projects
“Etihad Rail is one of the biggest and most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UAE,” said Nasser Alsowaidi, the chairman of Etihad Rail, in a statement regarding the new project last January.
“As we enter 2016, we have been working closely with our partners and stakeholders to assess our strategic priorities for the year. As a result, a decision has been taken to suspend the tendering process for stage two, while we review the most appropriate timing for this investment,” He added.
Oil puts Gulf States under Pressure
In January 2016, and for the first time in nearly 12 years, oil prices fell to below $30 per barrel. Which forced the Arab States to reduce its usual expenditures.
During October 2015, the UAE has announced reducing its federal budget for this year. According to data announced by the Ministry of Finance in December 2015, government expenditure has declined in the UAE by about 21.6% during the three months ended in September, compared to the corresponding period in 2014.
Etihad Rail: The Company in brief
Etihad Rail was established in June 2009 to develop, construct and operate the UAE’s national freight and passenger railway network.
The railway network is scheduled to be established in 3 stages, to link major residential and industrial centers in the country. Which is considered an important part of the rail network, to be established for the GCC countries.
With the completion of the mega project, the region will have a safe network, with an appropriate costs according to sustainability criteria. That is capable of linking the UAE and the GCC countries, and to provide an example of an extra ordinary movement of logistics and transport in the Arabian Gulf region.