By Talal Malik
Plans are being finalised for the national railway network set to ease road congestion in the Emirates.
Plans for the Emirates Railway, a 350-kilometre national railway network plan to ease road congestion in the UAE, are nearly finalised, a government minister said today.
Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Government Sector Development, told Gulf News the network will link Abu Dhabi to the east coast and eventually be connected with the proposed GCC-wide railway network.
"We are studying it now - we need to finalise it and present it to the government," Al Mansouri told the newspaper.
"It is one of the strategic plans of the UAE government to create a railway system for both passengers and cargo and will ease a lot of the trucking congestion."
Abu Dhabi Government's Department of Planning and Economy in September 2005 commissioned a feasibility study on the railway project, which would primarily be used to transport containers, dry bulk, cement, sand, rock, aggregates and even petrochemicals.
Container volumes in the UAE, which Al Mansouri said the governments wants to reduce, are rising rapidly as the Emirates increase in stature as a major global trading hub.
With population growth in Arab capitals putting greater pressure on roads, governments are looking at building railway networks. GCC states have spoken about the need for creating a GCC-wide railway network for many years, but as yet, no plans have been formalised.
The government is also favourable towards private sector participation in developing the transportation sector.
"I think in general the transport sector, both road and railway, needs privatisation," said the minister. "Any alternative mode that could improve transport between the emirates should be looked at."
French train manufacturer Alstom, which is bidding for projects in the Gulf, has said the planned $3 billion rail system across the Emirates will be 700 kilometres long and connect Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah to Ghewaifat through Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
A consortium, led by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, is currently building a $4.22 billion urban rail network in Dubai which will be ready by 2010.
Abu Dhabi is also working on a plan for an inter-city train network and metro lines to create a transport system under its ‘Plan Abu Dhabi 2030' Plan, which will see an expansion of the transport network to accommodate the expected growth of the emirate's population to 3 million by that year.