UK-based Atkins has won the preliminary engineering contract for the first phase of the $11bn federal railway.

The contract covers studying the design alignment and carrying out civil engineering work so that the main construction contracts can be tendered, Union Railway announced during MEED Abu Dhabi conference 2010.

In a separate deal, Germany’S TUV Rheinland Intertraffic will now act as the Independent Safety Assesor (ISA) for the project.

Union Railway has also completed a passenger traffic study that shows the potential demand for a passenger line to link the main urban centres of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

The main freight line will run from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and eventually on to the emirates on the east coast. One spur of this line will run to Al-Ain and onto Oman where it will stop at Sohar and Muscat. Other spurs of the main line will run to Jebel Ali port and Khalifa port and these spurs have now been agreed by the port operators in both emirates.

The first phase of the railway involves building a 265-kilometre track between the port of Ruwais and gas fields at Shah and Habshan. The first part of the work will involve building the line from Ruwais to Habshan, which will be able to transport 10,000 t/d of granulated sulphur. This will increase to 20,000 t/d when the line is completed to Shah.

The next part of development might involve building a railway line from Liwa junction and on to Musaffah, Taweelah and Jebel Ali. However, this is still under study.

Union Railway invited companies to submit prequalification documents by 28 November for the material supply packages for the first phase (MEED 1:11:10).