The UAE government’s decision to try and develop the first phase of the inter-emirates rail network by 2011 will be welcomed with open arms by construction firms.

As the credit crunch continues to erode the self-assurance of consultants, contractors, suppliers and developers, the news that a major government-funded infrastructure project should start soon will restore some much needed confidence to the emirates’ construction industry.

But the 573-kilometre rail network is not simply a building project and it will have a far wider impact in time.

The construction sector may be the immediate beneficiary, but the rail lines will also have a huge impact on the broader economy as it slashes journey times across the federation and helps bring the emirates’ economies closer together.

The country’s existing road system is already struggling to cope with economic growth and the explosion in trade within the emirates and between them, the region and the rest of the world. Each day there are huge traffic jams on the Emirates road close to places such as Jebel Ali, as container lorries queue to get into the region’s busiest port.

Elsewhere, aggregates are moved by road from Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah to construction sites in Dubai.

As the UAE’s economy develops, the situation will only get worse. There has already been a dramatic increase in the volume of construction traffic over the past 12 months, as work begins on site on projects across the country.

More pressure will be put on the roads when new industrial projects are completed in Ruwais and Taweelah.

If priced correctly, the proposed rail network will take the majority of this traffic off the roads, dramatically improving the safety of some of the federation’s most dangerous highways as well as improving the efficiency of the wider economy.