Etihad Rail aims to award contracts for stage two of network

The second stage of the US$11 billion project, which has provision for passengers as well as freight, will extend the network by 630 kilometres.
Khuloud Al Mazrouei, the assistant structure manager at Etihad Rail, at the Al Gharbia Development Forum on Tuesday, May 20. Silvia Razgova / The National
Khuloud Al Mazrouei, the assistant structure manager at Etihad Rail, at the Al Gharbia Development Forum on Tuesday, May 20. Silvia Razgova / The National

Etihad Rail, which has completed preliminary engineering for the second stage of its network, is looking to award contracts this year.

The second stage of the US$11 billion project, which has provision for passengers as well as freight, will extend the network by 630 kilometres. It will connect Musaffah in Abu Dhabi with Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali, and extend to the Saudi and Omani borders.

“We are hoping to award contractors for the stage two packages this year. We are on track for 2017-18 [completion],” Khuloud Al Mazrouei, the assistant structure manager at Etihad Rail, said on the sidelines of the Al Gharbia Development Forum in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Passenger services linking communities in the UAE are highly anticipated but also represent challenges including their economic viability given the relatively low number of potential commuters. In February, Nasser Al Mansoori, Etihad Rail’s chief executive insisted that passenger services would indeed run on the network and would link up with light railways like the Dubai Metro and the planned Abu Dhabi Metro.

Connectivity with Saudi Arabia and Oman for the wider GCC rail network was likely to be delayed, however.

“Each country has its own priorities. Saudi is not currently doing the link between the UAE and them. They are building now the Haranain [high-speed rail network between Mecca and Medina]. Oman is still not [building their rail] yet, so our connection will be delayed,” said Ms Al Mazrouei.

The preliminary engineering, which defines the requirements of stage two, was completed by Atkins, a British design, engineering, and project management consultantcy.

The next tender will be for “the design and build” of the second stage, according to Ms Mazrouei. The contracts for stage two are divided into five packages: A, B, C, D, and F. Package A is to connect Ruwais to the Saudi border, package B is to connect Tarif to Al Ain, package C is to connect Musaffah to Jebel Ali, package D is for a system integration of the previous locations, and package F is for the facilities operations, or a control centre.

Etihad Rail is currently testing and commissioning freight services on the first phase of its l network, running from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais, with a view to launching services by the end of the year.

The company in March announced a contract with DB Schenker, Europe’s largest railway company, to operate and maintain the first phase of the network.

In February last year it secured $1.28bn in financing for the 264km first phase. Stage 3 which will add almost another 300km will be operation from December 2018.

The completed UAE rail network – set to span 1,200km – is part of a 2,000km GCC-wide rail project, due to be connected in 2018 and expected to require investment of about $100bn. However, Bahrain’s minister of transport earlier this year admitted that its rail link with Saudi Arabia may not be completed according to schedule, with Kuwait and Oman also reported to be facing delays.

An expected 80,000 railway staff will be needed across the GCC within five years, according to a Saudi rail industry training academy.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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