UAE's rail network project Image Credit: File photo

Dubai: The head of Etihad Rail said that the UAE’s railway network is “moving forward,” with routes now aligned and the design of the project completed.

The developer and operator of the railway on Tuesday declined to elaborate on when the project will be completed, after the second phase was put on hold in 2016 for further reviews. The network was originally slated for completion at the end of 2018, but that was later rescheduled to the end of 2020 and then 2021.

Shadi Malak, chief executive officer of Etihad Rail, said that, within the UAE, the 605-kilometre-project will extend from the borders of Saudi Arabia all the way to Fujairah and the northern emirates.

“We signed a number of key agreements with key beneficiaries and partners, [including] Abu Dhabi Ports Company and Zones Corp Abu Dhabi,” Malak said in a speech at Middle East Rail, an annual conference in Dubai.

Still, there are challenges and key issues to look at, the CEO said, including planning and development.

Also speaking at the conference was Ahmad Al Khoury, director general of the UAE’s Federal Transport Authority (FTA), who said the upcoming rail network will play an active role in boosting the country’s economy, especially its logistics sector as cargo points are connected via rail.

He said that a federal law for establishing a railway in the UAE has been drafted, but yet to be approved. The law will cover different aspects of railways including infrastructure, licensing, safety, and best practices, among others.

The rail network is meant to connect key points within the UAE, but will also extend across the GCC, connecting all six countries in the region. Asked about updates on the GCC network, Al Khoury told Gulf News that the UAE side was only working with Saudi Arabia and Oman, as they were the countries with whom the UAE shares borders, but did not provide details on the region-wide network.