The beauty of Etihad Rail

Rarely has the UAE embarked on a project that will change the lives of so many residents

Construction of the Etihad Rail railway in Fujairah. Etihad Rail
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If you want a sign that the UAE is embarking on a new era in the development of its transport sector, look at the aerial photo recently published by Etihad Rail.

It shows a new stretch of line cutting through Fujairah's dramatic Hajar Mountains. As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. The landscape is not just beautiful, but also hugely challenging. The fact that a railway is rapidly stretching through it shows the scale of the project that will soon transform movement in the UAE.

Spectacular in sight, the project is also spectacular in what cannot be seen. It is worth Dh200 billion to the country's economy. More than 13,000 workers have been involved in the project. More than 70 per cent of the line has now been built. Passenger services – there will be freight ones, too – will travel at speeds up to 200 kilometres an hour, carrying about 400 people per train.

This exciting new mode of transport will be accessed in 11 of the UAE's cities, from the far west to the high north. It will be as fast, often faster, than travelling by car, with the estimated time between Abu Dhabi standing at 50 minutes.

Officials believe that as many as 36 million people could be using the service each year by 2030. That represents a significantly lower number of journeys by car, with all the environmental and safety benefits which that entails.

And within those 36 million, all parts of society in the Emirates will be included. It is rare that a project comes along that will change for the better the lives of so many, whether they are people that live in the north or south, are young or old, tourist or resident.

Years ago, camels, horses and travelling on foot would have been the predominant way of crossing the same mountains shown in the new photo. As the country experienced a rapid development in the latter half of the 20th century, it became, and largely still is, the car.

All these means are owed much gratitude. And all, in some form or another, will remain important in the years ahead. But as time goes on, new ones will arrive, be they driverless taxis or more bikes as cycle lanes develop in the country's cities. Much remains to be seen. But there is concrete evidence now that Etihad Rail is going to be a key part in the next phase of this exciting journey.

When it comes it will offer a service that has done the wider region well, too. From Iran to Egypt, railways have been key in the story of the modern Middle East, and they will remain so. The benefit of the UAE embarking on this journey in the 21st century is that the network will be one of the most modern on the planet, meaning it has not only the capacity for high-speed travel, but also the chance to make the project as aesthetically pleasing as possible. This will extend to more than just the trains themselves, but the stations that serve them, too. Fujairah, where this latest photo was taken, will also be the emirate that gets the first station.

It is perhaps fitting that one of the country's most rural and rugged regions is the sight of so many milestones in the project. It is a sign that Etihad Rail is a moment in the UAE's history that really will make a lasting impression for all.

Published: August 08, 2022, 3:00 AM