UAE prepares to start high-speed rail construction

01 February 2024
Etihad Rail to develop a high-speed rail line connecting Abu Dhabi and Dubai


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Etihad Rail is preparing to start construction work on the UAE’s high-speed rail project after asking contractors to express interest in the early works for the line connecting Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The high-speed project will slash journey times between the UAE’s two largest cities and economic centres.

It is separate from the Etihad Rail passenger service, which will travel at 200 kilometres an hour (km/h) and use the same network as the UAE’s freight rail network, for which construction work is now largely complete. 

High-speed rail services travel at speeds over 300km/h. According to a report by MEED’s sister site Railway Technology, the top ten fastest high-speed rail services in the world are: 

  1. Shanghai Maglev: 460km/h (China)
  2. CR Harmony: 350km/h (China)
  3. CR Fuxing: 350km/h (China)
  4. DB ICE: 350km/h (Germany)
  5. SCNCF TGV: 320km/h (France)
  6. JR Shinkansen: 320km/h (Japan)
  7. ONCF Al Boraq: 320km/h (Morocco)
  8. Renfe AVE 103: 310km/h (Spain)
  9. Korail KTX-Sancheon: 305km/h (South Korea)
  10. Trenitalia Frecciarossa 1000: 300km/h (Italy)

The early works for the UAE’s high-speed network will involve a contractor clearing and preparing sites for actual construction work. This typically includes earthmoving and the diversion of existing infrastructure or utilities in the area. 

The preliminary site testing works have begun. Dubai-based Matcon Testing Laboratory and Abu Dhabi’s Engineering & Research International are conducting drilling tests to ascertain the ground conditions in areas that the high-speed rail will pass through. One of the areas where testing is being done is in the Jaddaf area of Dubai. 

Spanish engineering firms Sener and Ineco are the engineering consultants for the project.

Etihad Rail has previously conducted feasibility studies for high-speed rail links in the UAE.

In late 2021, the UAE launched a AED50bn ($13.6bn) programme to establish an integrated cargo and passenger transport system across the country. 

The programme comprises three projects, the first of which is the Freight Rail component, which includes Etihad Rail’s freight capacity.

The second project, Rail Passenger Services, aims to connect 11 cities within the UAE from Al-Sila to Fujairah. The passenger transport scheme will have a speed of 200 kilometres an hour and aims to minimise travel times between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to 50 minutes and Abu Dhabi and Fujairah to 100 minutes.

More than 36.5 million passengers are expected to use the system by 2030.

The third project in the programme, Integrated Transport Services, involves establishing an innovation centre to incorporate smart transportation solutions into the overall plan. A light rail network will be linked to the rail passenger system to facilitate transportation within UAE cities.

These projects will add to existing and under-construction elements of the network.

READ MORE: Consortiums submit bids for UAE-Oman rail

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