The UAE's national rail project took a significant step forward after Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah were connected to the network.
Etihad Rail said on Wednesday that tracklaying work had been completed to link the two emirates to Ghuwaifat in the west of the country.
The transport scheme will eventually run for 1,200 kilometres across the UAE, from the border of Saudi Arabia to Fujairah.
The railway will link the principal centres of trade, industry, manufacturing, production, logistics, population and all the major import and export points of the UAE, as well as forming an integral part of the GCC railway network.
Chairing a Cabinet meeting held in Al Watan Palace in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed said the railway project had been reviewed and called it "the largest infrastructure project in the UAE, linking 11 cities, seven logistic centres and four international ports in the country".
In May, Etihad Rail said 75 per cent of the network had now been built. Construction has been divided into two stages, the second of which includes four packages.
Stage one — a freight service linking the gas fields at Shah and Habshan to Ruwais — opened in 2016. Each day, it carries up to 22,000 tonnes of granulated sulphur from Habshan and Shah to Ruwais for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
Stage two, which includes the latest rail links to Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, joins Ghuwaifat in the west to Fujairah in the east.
Rail network takes shape
Etihad Rail said work was in progress to connect Fujairah to the network in the coming weeks.
The line in Sharjah runs for 45km and is part of the last package of the project, which is 145km in length.
The Ras Al Khaimah line extends over 5.7km and connects the emirate to the project's main line.
“Today, we have made remarkable strides by completing the main works for the UAE National Rail Network and connecting it to the main lines in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah," said Khuloud Al Mazrouei, deputy project manager at Etihad Rail.
She said Etihad Rail was on track to complete the ambitious project on time and achieve its goal of "providing an efficient and sustainable transport network that links the country’s emirates, and connects the UAE with the region".
"This plays a key role in opening up new prospects in the logistics and transport industry, driving social development, and providing promising economic opportunities in the UAE and the region across a range of sectors,” she said.
Once operational, passenger trains capable of carrying about 400 people will travel at speeds of up to 200 kilometres an hour.
No start date for the passenger service has been made public but officials have said more than 36 million people will be using the service annually by 2030.
Customers can expect a travel time of 50 minutes between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and about 100 minutes from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah, cutting commutes significantly. Construction of the UAE-wide network is advancing rapidly with close to 70 per cent of the twin-track route already built.