The UAE plans to complete the first stage of the long-awaited inter-emirates rail network by mid-2011, with the entire network complete by late 2015, according to official documents seen by MEED.

The project will be managed by a new agency known as Union Railway. The first phase will be 573.5 kilometres in length and will serve Abu Dhabi and parts of Dubai. The second phase will be 246km and will serve other parts of Dubai, the northern emirates and the east coast.

The backbone of the network will be an inland line that will run from Ghuweifat on the Saudi Arabian border, past Ruwais, and through the desert to Ras al-Khaimah. Spur lines will serve Mussafah, Abu Dhabi airport, Khalifa Port and Taweelah, Jebel Ali, Dubai and Sharjah, Al-Ain in Abu Dhabi’s eastern region, and Fujairah and Khor Fakkan on the east coast.

According to the rail agency’s plans, construction will be broken down into six stages that will be carried out in two phases.

Stage one covers the line connecting Mussafah and Taweelah. Tenders for this section are expected soon, as an award is scheduled for mid-2009 with actual construction due to start in early 2010. Completion is set for mid 2011.

An award for stage two, from Taweelah to Jebel Ali, will be made at the same time, but construction will not start until the final quarter of 2010. Completion of this section is also scheduled for mid-2011.

Stage three, from Mussafah to Ruwais, and stage four, from Ruwais to Ghuweifat, will be awarded in early 2010. Construction of stage three will start in early 2011 and completion is set for mid-2012. Work on stage four will start in late 2011 and finish in late 2013.

Stage five, which will be part of a second phase of work, will run from Jebel Ali to Port Saqr in Ras al-Khaimah. An award is expected in mid-2010 with construction starting in late 2011 and ending in early 2014. The final sixth stage, which is also part of phase two will run from the Ghayl junction through Fujairah to Khor Fakkan on the east coast. It will be awarded in early 2010 with construction starting in early 2011 and completion set for early 2015.

A German consortium of Dornier Consulting, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit and De-Consult has prepared a feasibility study for the project on behalf of the Planning & Economy Department (MEED 8:2:08).

Union Railway, which was created in 2007 to supervise the development of the inter-emirates rail network, is headed by Hussain al-Nowais. He is also chairman of Emirates Steel Industries, National Petroleum Construction Company, and Abu Dhabi Basic Industries Corporation (Adbic).

Other Union Railways board members include Juma Mubarak al-Junaibi, the general manager of Abu Dhabi Municipality; Jaber Hareb al-Khaili, chief executive officer of the Higher Corporation for Specialised Economic Zones (ZonesCorp); Nasser Saif al-Mansouri, the director general of the National Transport Authority; Falah al-Ahbabi, the general manager of the Urban Planning Council; Mohamed Hareb al-Yousef, the assistant undersecretary of the Transport Department; and Khalid Saleh al-Rashidi, general manager of TransAD.

Abu Dhabi emirate is also planning to form a public transport company to manage its proposed metro system. Unlike the Dubai metro, the network will be largely underground. It will run through tunnels along Abu Dhabi island to Hamdan street where it will connect with lines serving Saadiyat island and downtown Abu Dhabi. It will run above ground on Saadiyat island.

In December 2007, the Transport Department appointed UK consultants Mott MacDonald and Steer Davies Gleave for a study on a masterplan for surface transport.

Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) has received bids for an integrated rail transit study as the emirate considers building more rail routes to serve developments in the emirate and incorporating them into the proposed inter-emirates rail link.

The bidders include Arup, Halcrow, Hyder Consulting, all UK-based, and US-based Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Four metro lines are either planned or under way in the emirate. The first of these, the Red line, is under construction and is scheduled for completion in September 2009. The Green line is expected to open in October 2010. A joint venture of Parsons International and Systra is the consultant for both lines.

A high-speed link, the Purple line, which could connect Dubai International Airport and the new Al-Maktoum Airport at Dubai World Central in the Jebel Ali area, is also planned, pending the resolution of funding issues between the RTA and the Civil Aviation Department. Parsons Brinckerhoff was appointed as the consultant for this scheme in 2007.

A fourth line, the Blue line, will also link the two airports, but will not be a high-speed connection. It will run in parallel to Emirates road and serve the Dubailand area. The tender for the consultancy role has yet to be tendered.