Etihad Rail

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Etihad Rail
Headquarters Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Key people
Nasser Ahmed Alsowaidi (Chairman)
Mattar Al Tayer (Vice Chairman)
Faris Saif Al Mazrourei (Chief Executive Officer)
Services Railways

Etihad Rail, formerly known as Union Railway, was established in June 2009 under Federal Law No. 2 to manage the development, construction and operation of the United Arab Emirates’ national freight and passenger railway network.


Etihad Rail network (Stage I)
(under construction)
(Up arrow Future extension to Saudi Arabia)
(Down arrow Future extension to Abu Dhabi)

The 1,200km railway network will be built in three stages to link the principal centres of population and industry of the UAE, as well as to form a vital part of the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway network that will connect the UAE with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.

The Etihad Rail network will be delivered in three stages, with commercial operations commencing in 2014. The freight trains will travel at 120 km/h and passenger trains on the network will run at speeds of up to 200 km/h. The First stage of network is fully operational and budget for second stage has been announced.

The network is mainly double track, designed for mixed-use traffic, equipped with an in-cab European signalling system (ETCS level 2), is of standard gauge, and is being built to accommodate double stack containers.

Phasing and timeline[edit]

The Etihad Rail network will be developed and implemented in three main stages.

Stage 1[edit]

The first stage is the 264-kilometre route for transporting sulphur from its sources at Shah and Habshan, in granulated form, to its point of export at Ruwais. The services between Habshan and Ruwais are fully operational,since September 2013.[1]

Etihad Rail DB is the company responsible for the operations and maintenance of Stage One of the UAE’s national railway network for Etihad Rail’s primary customer, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).[2] Etihad Rail DB was set up in 2013 as a joint venture between Etihad Rail (51%) and Deutsche Bahn (DB) (49%), Europe’s largest railway operator and infrastructure owner. Etihad Rail DB officially commenced commercial operations in January 2016 after having received an Operator Accreditation from the Federal Transport Authority of the United Arab Emirations. In February 2017, Etihad Rail DB announced that, as of 20 January 2017, it had safely run its 1,000th train.[3][4]

Stage 2[edit]

The second stage will connect the railway to Mussafah, the Khalifa and Jebel Ali ports, and the Saudi and Omani borders. During this stage, the network will be extended by 628 km. Preliminary engineering is complete. Tendering is in progress, with contracts covering the final design and build to be awarded soon.

Stage 3[edit]

The final stage will add a further 279 km of rail, extending from Dubai to the northern regions of Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah. Stage 3 will facilitate the transport of people and goods from these northern regions to other areas in the UAE.


In July 2011 Etihad Rail ordered seven Electro-Motive Diesel SD70ACS diesel locomotives.[5][6] The first two SD70ACS locomotives were unloaded at Mussafah Port in Abu Dhabi in April 2013, and were due to be moved to Mirfa in the Western Region in preparation for the launch of the 266 km Stage One, which will initially carry granulated sulphur from Shah and Habshan for export through the port of Ruwais.[7] The locomotives are painted in a red and grey livery using colours from the UAE flag.[8] Another EMD locomotive had already been delivered to the UAE as a demonstrator.[7]

In September 2011 CSR Corporation Limited won an order to supply 240 covered wagons to carry granulated sulphur.[9]

Concrete sleepers[edit]

In 2014, a concrete sleeper factory is being established at Mirfa, UAE.


Etihad Rail has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with companies across a range of industries. These organisations include:

  • Al Dahra
  • Arkan
  • Aramex
  • Bertschi
  • Centre of Waste Management - Abu Dhabi
  • DHL
  • DP World
  • Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (Du)
  • Dubai Industrial City
  • Emirates Steel
  • Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) Global Shipping and Logistics (GSL)
  • Hellmann Worldwide Logistics HOYER Global Transport BV
  • National Air Cargo
  • RSA Logistics
  • Sharaf Logistics
  • Sharjah Cement and Industrial Development Company (SCIDC)
  • SNTTA Cargo
  • Emirates Transport
  • Abu Dhabi Ports Company
  • ZonesCorp
  • Al Jaber
  • Al Futtaim Tamrac
  • Western Bainoonah Group

In March 2014, Etihad Rail signed a joint venture with DB Schenker Rail, a subsidiary of German-based Deutsche Bahn (DB), to operate and maintain the railway. The joint venture, Etihad Rail DB, will initially provide railway operations and maintenance expertise for stage one, setting the foundation to also act as consultant for the operations of the future stages of the Etihad Rail network.

Contribution to the UAE[edit]

The Etihad Rail network is being developed in line with the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021.[citation needed]

Built to international standards, Etihad Rail's network will connect principal centres of trade, industry and population, acting as a catalyst for economic growth and sustained social development. The network will also form a vital part of the planned GCC railway network, linking to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.[citation needed]

Environmental Impact

Etihad Rail’s fleet of trains will benefit the environment by carrying the same amount of cargo as three hundred lorries.[citation needed]

The organisation also undertakes environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to minimise the environmental effects of the railway throughout its development. Etihad Rail will conduct separate EIAs in collaboration with each emirate’s regulatory authority, including the assessment of construction and operational facilities located along the rail network’s route.[citation needed]

GCC Railway[edit]

GCC Railway or Gulf Railway is a planned 2,117 km railway network that will connect the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) starting from Kuwait and ending in Oman. It will also include a bridge linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The project is expected to cost around $15.4 billion.[citation needed]

Expected to be completed by 2018 the GCC Railway project was approved at the 30th GCC summit held in Kuwait from 14–15 December 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Etihad Rail set to award phase 2 of $11bn rail plan". Arabian Supply Chain. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Etihad Rail DB exceeds customer expectations". Arabian Supply Chain. Retrieved 15 April 2017. 
  3. ^ "Etihad Rail DB runs 1000th Train". Emirates247. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Etihad Rail to launch commercial operations". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 10 December 2015. 
  5. ^ "Etihad Rail orders EMD locomotives". Railway Gazette International. 1 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "US firm to build trains for UAE rail network". Construction Week Online. 1 August 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Etihad Rail takes delivery of EMD locomotives". Railway Gazette International. 10 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Livery chosen for Etihad Rail locomotive fleet". International Railway Journal. 2 May 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Etihad Rail orders CSR sulphur wagons". Railway Gazette International. 12 September 2011. 

External links[edit]