etihad rail
Image Credit: Etihad rail

Construction on the UAE Network is now 100% complete and commercial operations have officially started. “Etihad Rail’s freight services are now fully operational” as per a Twitter post of the company.

Etihad Rail is the UAE’s national railway network, established in June 2009 under Federal Law No. 2 to manage the development, construction, and operation of the national freight and passenger railway network.

The project aims to link the UAE’s principal centres of trade, industry, and population, contributing to economic diversification through strategic initiatives set to bolster UAE socioeconomic growth and diversification. The railway network will use standard gauge, mainly double track, and its freight trains will reach speeds up to 120km/h (75mph), while its passenger trains will reach speeds up to 200km/h (120mph).

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The railway line runs from the Saudi border all the way across the UAE to Fujairah on the Indian Ocean coast, and it is being developed with an estimated investment of AED40bn ($11bn).

The Etihad Rail passenger train will connect 11 cities and regions across the UAE, and travelling from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and from Dubai to Fujairah will only take 50 minutes in each direction, in the future.

The Etihad Rail project is expected to serve approximately 16 million passengers and 50 million tonnes of freight per year, providing a sustainable and efficient alternative for the transportation of freight and passengers throughout urban and rural areas of the Emirate.

Seamless transportation system

By connecting the major ports, airports, and industrial areas in the UAE, Etihad Rail will provide a seamless and integrated transportation system that can cater to the needs of businesses and consumers.

The rail system will also connect the UAE to other GCC countries and beyond, providing a reliable and efficient means of transportation for trade and commerce.

The UAE government has stated that the rail network will support its goal of becoming a hub for logistics and supply chain management, as it will reduce transportation costs, enhance efficiency, and improve the overall competitiveness of the country’s economy.

The UAE has already made significant investments in aviation, shipping, and logistics infrastructure to establish itself as a hub for trade and commerce, and the addition of a modern and efficient rail network will further enhance its connectivity and competitiveness.

The Etihad Rail project is expected to have several benefits for the UAE. The railway system is expected to be more cost-effective than other modes of transportation, such as trucks and aeroplanes, which will reduce transportation costs for businesses and consumers.

The railway network will also revolutionise the transportation system across the UAE, contributing to the UAE’s economy, which is valued at Dh23 billion.

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Image Credit: WAM

Reducing the carbon footprint of transportation in the UAE, the project is expected to be more energy-efficient and emit less pollution than other modes of transportation.

Etihad Rail contributes to an overall reduction in CO2 by 21% per year, by 2050 and will reduce the road transport emissions per capita by 40%, by 2050.

Etihad Rail is part of the ‘Projects of the 50’, a series of developmental and economic projects that aim to accelerate the UAE’s ambitious goals.

It is a key economic project as part of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021, which aims to improve the region’s overall development and increase GDP from non-oil sectors to over 60% by 2030.

Specialised maintenance teams

Weather conditions can have a significant impact on the operations of the Etihad Rail. While the railway system is designed to operate under a range of weather conditions, severe weather events such as sandstorms, heavy rainfall, and high winds can cause disruptions and delays.

Sandstorms are a common occurrence in the UAE, particularly during the summer months. The high winds and blowing sand can damage railway tracks, trains, and other infrastructure.

To deal with this, Etihad Rail has developed a range of measures, including sand fences and windbreaks, to prevent sand from accumulating on the tracks and disrupting train operations.

In addition, they have specialised maintenance teams that monitor the tracks and infrastructure for any damage caused by sandstorms and carry out repairs as necessary.

Heavy rainfall can also pose a challenge for the railway system, particularly if there is flooding. In these cases, Etihad Rail has a range of contingency plans in place to deal with any disruptions to the service. This includes rerouting trains to avoid flooded areas and deploying pumps to remove any water that has accumulated on the tracks.

Etihad Rail also places a significant emphasis on safety management in its day-to-day operations. This includes regular inspections of the tracks and infrastructure, as well as the implementation of safety procedures and protocols for the workforce.

Currently safety training and awareness programmes for Etihad Rail employees is going on to ensure that they remain vigilant and proactive in maintaining a safe and secure environment.

Dr. Kristian Alexander is a Senior Fellow and the Director of International Security & Terrorism Program at TRENDS Research and Advisory (Dubai), as well as the Head of the Strategic Studies Department. Noura Al Habsi is Researcher at TRENDS Research and Advisory (Abu Dhabi) and the Head of the Publications Department.