Abu Dhabi: The deadline for the GCC rail network has been moved back three years to 2021, Dr Abdullah Mohammad Bel Haif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Infrastructure Development, told the Federal National Council on Tuesday.

Al Nuaimi, who also chairs the Federal Transport Authority’s Land and Maritime arm, said this decision was taken after we came to know that 2018 was unfortunately not a possible deadline, but we wanted to have a ceiling for completing the project

“In principle, we agreed on 2021 ... That is the target. Whether we can possibly achieve or not, that would depend on the internal plan of each country.”

Answering a question put by Salem Ali Al Shehi, a member from Ras Al Khaimah, Al Nuaimi said the UAE would like to see a complete rail network by 2021, but it is for the GCC countries to decide on this.

“Our part has been completed as Etihad Rail, which is developing the country’s Dh40-billion, 1,200-kilometre rail network, has completed the first stage of 266km of the line. So far, five million tonnes of sulphur from Shah and Habshan have been transported by train to the port of Al Ruwais for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) for export,” Al Nuaimi told the House.

The 628km second stage is planned to link Khalifa and Jebel Ali ports to the Saudi border at Ghweifat and the Omani border in Al Ain.