By Staff writer
Developer and operator says focus is on obtaining regulatory approvals for stage one of mega transport project
Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of the UAE's national rail network, has announced that it is awaiting regulatory approvals to start full commercial operations of stage one of the $11 billion transport project.
In line with the phased construction of the 1,200km railway, the company said its immediate focus is now "predominantly on the commencement of commercial operations on stage one and the start of delivery on stage two".
In comments made at the NATRANS Arabia conference, John Thomas, regulatory affairs advisor at Etihad Rail, said: "Etihad Rail is one of the largest and most ambitious projects ever undertaken in the UAE and excellent progress has been made to date."
"Construction of the 264km stage one line running between sources at Shah and Habshan, to the point of export at Ruwais in the western region of Abu Dhabi has been completed and our operating partner Etihad Rail DB has transported more than 2.5 million tonnes of granulated sulphur since September last year during the testing and commissioning and trial operations phases," he said.
"As we look ahead, our focus is now on obtaining regulatory approvals to start full commercial operations on stage one, as well as progressing stage two," he added.
Covering 628km, stage two will involve the completion of the rail network in the Abu Dhabi Emirate by connecting to the Saudi border at Ghweifat and the Omani border at Al Ain, and by connecting vital areas such as Mussaffah, Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali Port in Dubai.
Preliminary design and engineering for stage two have been completed and the tender process for six construction packages is in the final stages of evaluation.
The tender packages, which were recently re-issued following further project studies and detailed scoping process, include signalling, project management consultancy and construction of railway lines connecting Abu Dhabi to Dubai and the neighbouring countries of Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat and Oman via Al Ain.
"We are currently in the final stages of the tender evaluation process and recommendations will be presented to Etihad Rail's Board before the end of 2015. In line with the procurement process, the final approval on the contract awards will then be given by our Abu Dhabi and Federal Government shareholders," said Thomas.
"Stage Two will represent a major step to link the UAE to the wider GCC rail network by connecting the country to Saudi Arabia and Oman, and initial construction is expected to commence soon after contracts have been finalised and awarded."
Once completed, the Etihad Rail network will span 1,200km across the UAE, providing both freight and passenger services.
The network will also form a vital part of the GCC Railway Network, linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia through Ghweifat in the west and Oman through Al Ain in the east.