UAE: National railway project promoter Etihad Rail announced on March 11 that it had awarded the first construction contract for Stage Two of the network to a joint venture of China State Construction Engineering Corp and South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction.

The 1·5bn dirham Package A includes design and construction of civil and track works for the 139 km double-track route running west to connect Ruwais with Ghuweifat on the border with Saudi Arabia. This will require 1·3 million tonnes of ballast, more than 400 000 concrete sleepers and 33 000 tonnes of rail.

Etihad Rail Chairman Sheikh Theyab said award of the contract was a major milestone in the creation of a ‘modern, sustainable and cost-efficient’ national railway.

Etihad Rail expects to award contracts in the coming the months for the rest of Stage Two, which when complete would see the railway running 605 km across the UAE from Ghuweifat in the west to the Port of Fujairah in the east. On February 18 the company signed heads of terms with Abu Dhabi Ports for a planned connection between Khalifa Port and the rail network.

‘With the commencement of this first phase of Stage Two, we are reaching a major turning point in the transportation sector in the UAE and Gulf Co-operation Council’, said Theyab. ‘Pioneering and innovative, this initial link is just the beginning, as Etihad Rail expands its network to improve all aspects of freight transport across our border and around the region, placing the UAE at the centre of regional goods movement as a global logistics hub.’