Phase one of the UAE's multi-billion dollar rail network is expected to be inaugurated by the end of this year, a senior official has said.
Abdullah bin Mohammed Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Public Works and chairman of the UAE National Transport Authority (NTA), said the UAE plans to invest $25bn in its railway infrastructure as part of its 2020-2030 development plan.
"We hope to inaugurate phase one by the end of this year and phase two has also already started," he said in comments published by news agency WAM.
"Since the projects are to be completed within the next six to seven years, we need to have some spare amount of money for new technologies and new products that enter the market," he added.
He also said the first phase of the 1,200km Etihad Rail project, which runs from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais, is almost complete.
The rail network, which will be developed in three phases, is also part of the wider GCC railway network that aims to connect all the six Gulf states.
"The plan is to connect the entire GCC region by 2018," said Al Nuaimi. "However, in the UAE, we are probably ahead of the other states. Oman announced last week that it will be launching its railway network by 2017 and hence that would expedite our connection with Oman.
"Saudi's railway development is also in the pipeline - they have started the implementation process. We are hopeful that by 2018, it will be completed," he added.
Details such as immigration, customs and other logistical matters are currently being discussed by a GCC-wide committee to ensure that all the systems are in place, said Nazim bin Taher, acting director general of NTA.
Within the UAE, the NTA is also in the process of creating a new federal law to govern and regulate the sector.
The first draft has already been sent for approval, and the law is expected to be in force next year.