Abu Dhabi: Union Railway, the main developer and operator of the national rail network in the UAE, issued tenders to pre-qualified companies for the rolling stock of the railway in the Western Region at the end of last month.

"It was issued in conjunction with a tender released on March 1 to more than 20 pre-qualified consortia for the Civils and Track works of the same route," Union Railway said yesterday in a statement.

The first stage of the project developed by Union Railway is in accordance with its agreement with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) to move granulated sulphur from its sources in Shah and Habshan to Ruwais for export, from 2013.

Step in right direction

Commenting on the development, Dr Mohammad Amerah, an Abu Dhabi-based economist, said the railway project is a step in the right direction.

"It will have a positive impact on the UAE economy as a whole as it will facilitate transportation of passengers and shipment of goods across the seven emirates. The freight costs will also possibly go down and it will reduce the time for the shipment of goods," Amerah said.

"The movement of passengers will become easier and faster and less time consuming. It is a timely project," he added.

The civil and track works contract comprises the design, procurement, construction, testing and commissioning (on a design and build basis) of all assets relating to the completion of this project, Union Railway said.

"Construction of the national rail network project is scheduled to begin in the middle of this year, following the announcement of award of the tendered contracts," the statement added.

A countrywide railway network in the UAE will be rolled out within the next seven to eight years, Union Railway's Chief Executive Officer Richard Bowker said last year. It is estimated that the countrywide rail network will cost between Dh25 billion and Dh30 billion.

The Union Railway previously appointed Atkins as the preliminary engineering services consultant to oversee the execution of the three stages of the UAE's railway network.

The Union Railway will be 1,500km long extending across all seven emirates.

The railway will connect the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat city in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.