Etihad Rail is planning to tender phase 3 of its ambitious $11bn rail project in the second half of 2014, MEED’s Abu Dhabi Conference 2013 was told on 9 December.

John Lesniewski told the conference that the rail company was in the final stages of preliminary designs and expects phase 3 of the rail project in “the third or fourth quarter of 2014.”

The third phase will cover the track connecting the UAE network to the Northern Emirates.

Lesniewski had earlier told the conference that the rail company was planning to award the phase 2 contract for the rail project by the end of the first quarter of 2014.

Phase 2 will connect the major ports and cities in the UAE. The 628-kilometre rail line will link Ruwais in Abu Dhabi to Ghweifat on its border with Saudi Arabia.

The first section of phase 1, linking gasfields of Habshan to Ruwais port, is due to be completed and operational by the end of 2013. Civil and tracks work for phase 1, worth $898m, is being developed by a consortium led by Italy’s Saipem. The other members of the consortium include Tecnimont, also Italian, and the UAE’s Dodsal Engineering and Construction.