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UAE’s rail network on track, sees strong bidding

UAE rail project proceeds despite regional unrest; International, local groups bid for first contract

April 13, 2011 3:34 by

The United Arab Emirates’ Etihad Rail will award the first contract to build a national rail network in the next three to four months, its CEO said, adding that regional unrest would not delay its plans.
The UAE has so far escaped pro-democracy protests that have toppled Egypt’s and Tunisia’s leaders and shaken autocratic regimes in nearby Bahrain, Oman and Yemen.
The rail company hopes to complete its 40 billion dirham ($10.9 billion) rail project in the next seven to eight years. The network, which will ultimately span up to 1,200 km (746 miles), would later link to planned regional lines.
Richard Bowker, chief executive of Etihad Rail, told Reuters three contracts for the first phase have been offered.
“There are three contracts which are out in the market for bid. They all relate to stage one of the railway, which is the 264 km line from Shah to Ruwais. The first and largest is for infrastructure, that is for civil works, tracks, communication systems and signals,” he said late on Tuesday.
Bowker did not give the names of the bidding companies.
“In terms of identity of the bidders, it’s quite a large group, over 20 groups. They are companies with experience in civil works, railways, construction works, both in the UAE and internationally,” he said.
Etihad Rail, capitalised at 1 billion dirhams, is 70 percent owned by Abu Dhabi’s government and 30 percent by the UAE federal government. It recently changed its name from Union Railway.
“We intend to make a decision and award the contract this summer, so that we can begin the mobilisation exercise and start construction later in the year. We are on a very tight schedule, but so far we have maintained the programme,” he said.
The other two contracts were for locomotives and for wagons carrying sulphur, Bowker said.
The rail network will transport some 50 million tonnes of freight and 16 million passengers over the next 20 to 30 years. The first route will transport granulated sulphur from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais for export.
Bowker said a final decision on the financing for the projects had not yet been made. “We have done a lot of work, but we are just going through the process of discussing that internally.”
The network will connect the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.

Freight trains will run at speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour (kph) and passenger trains at speeds of up to 200 kph.

By Martina Fuchs

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