Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of the UAE national railway network, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Saudi Railway Company (SAR) for collaboration and coordination for the rail industry among GCC members.
The MoU seeks to introduce common solutions, leverage best practice and allow for the free exchange of ideas and knowledge to improve the safety, efficiency, and economy of both countries’ railways networks.
The agreement will serve as a partnership between both parties and will enhance the relationship and long-term collaboration that will ultimately promote and lead to the successful economic development of the railway industry in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Committees including representatives from both parties will be created and collaborative meetings, seminars, and workshops will be held on a regular basis.
Commenting on the agreement, Faris Saif Al Mazrouei, acting CEO of Etihad Rail, says: “We are proud to announce this important MoU with SAR. We already work closely with our GCC neighbours in an effort to ensure that technical standards and technology for the railway network in the GCC are consistent, and this agreement will pave the way for greater cooperation, collaboration, and the exchange of knowledge with SAR.
“We can greatly benefit from Saudi Arabia’s pioneering experience, particularly given that both Etihad Rail and SAR share common goals and aim to leverage the latest technology and the highest standards of safety, and to provide the most sustainable services in the transportation field.”
SAR’s CEO Rumaih bin Muhammad Al Rumaih says: “Establishing such relations and cooperation with Etihad Rail will improve both projects’ executional mechanism and operations efficiency in the future, not only for Saudi Arabia and the UAE but for all GCC countries. This will contribute to creating an attractive market environment for rail and open doors to compete with other means of transportation, especially for freight and heavy haul.”
He says SAR has through the last eight years gathered extensive experience in both railway projects and operations that its partners across the GCC can benefit from.
The scale of the whole Saudi railway networks, between cities, is more than 7,200 km with SAR responsible for projects extending more than 4,500 km, Al Rumaih adds.
SAR recently signed a contract with TQ Education and Training to operate Saudi Railway Polytechnic (SRP) institute. Al Rumaih says Etihad Rail and other railway organisations in the GCC are welcome to benefit from SRP.
According to Al Mazrouei, work on the UAE’s national railway is progressing on schedule, and Etihad Rail believes that forming strong relationships with stakeholders of all railway projects in the GCC will further contribute to the success of the operation of the rail, as well as provide a secure link between the UAE and its neighbours.
Work has been completed on the Stage One of the $11-billion Etihad Rail, which also represents the completion of the first stage of the main GCC line, he adds.
Etihad Rail is currently testing and commissioning freight services on Phase One. Services on this part of the network, running from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais, are expected to be launched by the year-end. DB Schenker, Europe’s largest railway company, has been contracted to operate and maintain the Phase One.
Etihad Rail is expected to award contracts for Stage Two this year. The preliminary engineering for the stage has been completed by the UK-based Atkins, according to the UAE’s daily The National.
This second stage has provision for passengers as well as freight and will extend the network by 630 km. It will connect Musaffah in Abu Dhabi with Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali, and extend to the Saudi and Omani borders.
Khuloud Al Mazrouei, the assistant structure manager at Etihad Rail, says: “The next tender will be for the design-and-build of the second stage.”
The contracts for Stage Two are divided into five packages. Package A will connect Ruwais to the Saudi border; Package B, Tarif to Al Ain; Package C, Musaffah to Jebel Ali; Package D is for a system integration of the previous locations; and Package F is for the facilities operations/control centre.
Stage Three, which will add almost another 300 km, will be operational from Decem-
On completion, the Etihad Rail network, which will cater to both freight and passengers, will span approximately 1,200 km across the UAE. It will connect urban and peripheral communities, facilitate trade, open up communication channels and foster economic development across all the UAE emirates. The network will also form a vital part of the GCC railway network, linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.