UAE restarts $25bn Etihad national rail scheme after three-year delay

The UAE yesterday set in motion plans to build the second phase of its national rail network, which were suspended in January 2016 following a fall in oil and gas prices and cuts to the federal budget.

The decision was announced by the federal Ministry of Finance and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Finance, and follows the appointment in July of Jacobs Engineering Group to restart the project.

According to the press statement, Etihad Rail is now in "advanced stages of commercial and technical negotiations with an extended range of potential partners".

In July of this year, the UAE appointed US engineer Jacobs to work on the technical details of resurrecting the $25bn project, which had reached a fairly advanced stage before being suspended (see further reading below).

The first complete phase of the UAE’s 1,200km network, in blue, is a freight line to the Shah gas field (GCR)

So far, the network consists of a 264km link between the Shah gas field and the port of Ruwais. The plan is to expand this into a 1,200km system that will link Saudi Arabia and Oman using diesel locomotives travelling at speeds of up to 200km/h.

The second stage will be be a 605km line between the Saudi Arabian border and the emirate of Fujairah, linking that emirate’s main population centres and transport hubs. When complete, it is expected to increase the amount of freight carried from seven million to more than 50 million tonnes a year.

Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed, chairman of the Etihad Rail board of directors, said the expanded network would achieve a number of economic benefits, such as "improving the transport and shipping sector in the UAE by linking ports, manufacturing and production points, and population centres" and supporting future growth with a "sustainable, safe, modern and cost-effective transport system".

Top image: The first phase of the UAE’s rail network links the Shah gas field with the port and refinery of Ruwais (Etihad Rail)

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