CAF and Etihad Rail sign passenger train contract

UAE: National railway project promoter Etihad Rail has signed a 1·2bn dirham contract for Spanish company CAF to design, supply and maintain fleet of push-pull passenger trainsets designed to European standards and equipped with ‘the latest cutting-edge technologies’ that suit the UAE’s topography and climate.

The agreement announced on June 23 was signed by Etihad Rail CEO Shadi Malak and CEO of CAF’s rolling stock business Josu Imaz in Sakamkam, where the first station is to be built in Fujairah.

Cutting-edge technologies

CAF passenger train in Saudi Arabia

CAF passenger train in Saudi Arabia

The trains will run at up to 200 km/h, which CAF said is currently the highest operating speed for diesel-powered passenger trains.

Each train will have more than 400 seats, with first, business and economy classes. Passenger amenities will include infotainment systems, charging points, food and drinks, ‘ample’ legroom and ‘advanced’ air-conditioning.

Etihad Rail said the trains would provide ‘a quick, efficient, safe, comfortable and cost-saving travel experience’ to improve living standards for citizens, residents and visitors.

CEO Shadi Malak said Etihad Rail is seeking to work in with ‘the best companies in the world’ to develop the network ‘according to the highest standards, criteria, and schedules’. He said CAF has ‘world-renowned experience’, including considerable experience of manufacturing trains for the Gulf region; CAF has previously supplied push pull trainsets to Saudi Arabia.

The Etihad Rail fleet is to be manufactured in Spain. The final number of vehicles and the delivery dates have not yet been confirmed.

Strategic project

Etihad Rail construction works (1)

The introduction of passenger services on the network is one of three strategic projects included in the 50bn dirham UAE Railways Programme launched in December 2021, along with the development of freight services on current and future lines, and the integrated development of ‘smart transport technology and systems’ including light rail lines and planning, booking and integrated logistics systems.

Future services will connect 11 cities and regions from Al Sila to Fujairah, including Al Ruwais, Al Mirfa, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Dhaid and Abu Dhabi, reducing commuting times by 30% to 40% compared to other modes of transport. Ridership is predicted at 36·5 million passengers/year in 2030.

Future journey times, min
Abu Dhabi – Dubai 50
Dubai – Fujairah 50
Abu Dhabi – Al Ruwais 70
Abu Dhabi – Fujairah 100

In February this year Etihad Rail and First Abu Dhabi Bank signed a 1·99bn dirham agreement to finance the passenger services, with the bank to act as certified lead arranger for the loan.

In May Etihad Rail signed memoranda of understanding with Spain’s national operator RENFE and the UK’s High Speed 1 and GB Railfreight to enhance co-operation and the sharing of best practice in passenger and freight operations.