Etihad Rail signs $542m financing deal with FAB for passenger services

The passenger train project will add an estimated Dh200bn to the UAE's economy

Etihad Rail signed a Dh1.99 billion ($541.8 million) deal with First Abu Dhabi Bank on Thursday to finance passenger railway transport services.

The agreement is part of the UAE National Railways programme, the largest land transport system in the country.

FAB will be the certified lead arranger for the loan, as part of the agreement, said Abu Dhabi Media Office.

“Through this agreement with First Abu Dhabi Bank, we at Etihad Rail look forward to enhancing co-operation, uniting efforts and working together towards realising the vision of the UAE in accordance with the goals of the UAE National Railways programme, which was launched under the Projects of the 50 to establish the basis for a new stage of sustainable economic growth for the country,” said Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court and chairman of Etihad Rail.

Etihad Rail said in December that it will expand its operations from heavy goods services to include passenger train services as well by 2030.

The project will add an estimated Dh200bn to the economy and will allow “passengers to travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 50 minutes, and from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah in 100 minutes”, said Etihad Rail.

Connecting 11 cities and regions across the UAE, from Al Sila in the west to Fujairah in the north, the project is expected to carry more than 36.5 million passengers a year by 2030.

The passenger trains will travel at speeds up to 200 kilometres per hour and can carry up to 400 people.

Last month, The National was given exclusive access to the first images of what the UAE’s new passenger trains will look like.

Artist's impressions show silver and grey carriages emblazoned with the red Etihad Rail logo set against the backdrop of the UAE’s cities, mountains and deserts.

The UAE has yet to announce when the trains will begin operations.

Etihad Rail's passenger service extension is one of the three strategic projects of the National Railways programme, which was launched by the UAE government in December 2021.

“Through this agreement, we will move full steam ahead with our mission to provide passenger railway services, which will bolster the public transport system in the UAE and the wider region,” said Shadi Malak, chief executive of Etihad Rail.

“Etihad Rail is an essential component of the Gulf Co-operation Council rail network, and this agreement brings us one step closer towards realising our strategic goals of strengthening the UAE’s reputation as a regional and global transport hub.”

Etihad Rail is currently completing stage two of the UAE National Rail Network, with the first stage operational since 2016.

The project is “progressing at an accelerated pace”, with 70 per cent completed in less than 24 months, despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Abu Dhabi Media Office said.

“By connecting the UAE through a fully integrated rail network, Etihad Rail will bring significant economic and social benefits to the businesses and communities it serves, empowering future growth and providing opportunities for all,” said FAB group chief executive Hana Al Rostamani.

Updated: February 24, 2022, 10:46 AM