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17 April 2024

Funding 'fully available' for Union Railway

Funding 'fully available' for Union Railway. (AP)

By Abdel Hai Mohamad

The UAE government is fully able to find the financial credit for its vast railway project, due to start next year, said the Chairman of the Union Railway Company.

The railway project, scheduled for completion by late 2014, will be constructed in phases, the first in the capital, with stations at Shah, Habshan and Al Rowais.

"We do not have any financial problem, and the federal government will finance the project, which is strategic and sovereign," said Hussain Jassem Al Nowais, speaking to Emirates Business on the sidelines of the Middle East Rail Projects 2009, organised by Middle East Economic Digest (Meed) in Abu Dhabi.

"The fallout of the global financial crisis will not affect the implementation according to schedule. I expect it will take between five and seven years," he said.

Al Nowais said the Union Railway Company, set up with a capital of Dh1 billion, will place the first tender early next year for the project, which is planned to be completed in several phases.

He expected the tenders to see strong competition among international companies, adding that the Union Railway will be one of the most strategic and vital projects built by the UAE within its endeavour to achieve comprehensive development.

When asked about drawing up the track of the railway in Dubai and the northern emirates, Al Nowais said: "Currently we are consulting with the bodies concerned in Dubai and the northern emirates to set the track, and so far, no agreement has been reached. I expect we will finish this in the coming period."

Al Nowais said according to preliminary studies the length of the railway will reach 1,100km and will link Ghuwaifat centre on the border with Saudi Arabia in the west with the border point with Oman in the east. Any increase in the length will depend on the need to link more economic and development areas of the UAE, especially Zayed City and Liwa in Abu Dhabi, with the rest of the areas covered by the train.

He said the completion date of 2017 will be good but it might be brought forward given the big importance of the project.

The study revealed the train will carry some 30 million tonnes of freight a year. The number of passengers will be calculated in several weeks time.

Total cost at the moment will be no less than Dh30 billion, said Al Nowais.

Asked whether the railway will be part of the Gulf train, Al Nowais said, "Undoubtedly it will be part of the Gulf train, which is an important project of the Gulf Co-operation Council. There is efficient co-ordination between the UAE and other GCC member-states in this respect."

The cost of the Gulf train linking the six member-states is between $20bn (Dh73.4bn) and $25 billion.

He said the Union Railway Company conducted studies over two years, which confirmed the economic feasibility of the UAE train project.

Al Nowais said the train project links remotes areas of the nation with urban areas through a safe and fast network contributing to the development of all areas and emirates.

Adnoc to reap benefits

The Union Railway Company is currently involved in discussions with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), which could largely benefit in transportation of Sulphur from the proposed railway project.

Hussain Jassem Al Nowais, Chairman of the Union Railway Company, said the talks cover the movement of some seven million tonnes of sulphur a year from Shah and Habshan fields to Rowais.

"Negotiations have reached an advanced stage and currently they are of technical and technological nature." He expected the final co-operation plan before the end of the year.

An agreement with Adnoc will extend the railway line for 240km, said Al Nowais.

He praised the constructive co-operation on the part of Adnoc management as well as the active response to boost understanding between the two companies' activities. Al Nowais said the harmony flows into the interest of the sustainable development process witnessed by Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general.

The Chairman described the partnership with Adnoc as strategic and said the project should boost the investment plans by Adnoc in Shah and Habshan.

Alstom in Dubai tram talks

French engineering company Alstom said it is in talks for a five-year contract to maintain a €550 million (Dh2.9bn) tram system in Dubai, and is close to signing high-speed rail project deal in Morocco.

Marc Chagnas, Vice-President of business development for transport in south Europe, said yesterday Alstom was also focusing on winning a tender for a multi-billion dollar high speed rail linking Jeddah with Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The group is looking to boost its business in the world's largest oil exporting region, where governments are pouring billions of dollars into developing infrastructure as they diversify their economies.

"We see in the Middle East real projects with advanced financing schemes, engineering and that is not forgetting urban transport projects," Chagnas said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi.

A consortium including Alstom won the contract to build the first phase of Dubai's tram system in June 2008, for which its share was about €300m.

The tram, which is scheduled to be completed by 2012, will link to Dubai Metro, which opened in September. (Reuters)


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