ETIHAD Rail has awarded CAF, Spain, a Dirhams 1.2bn ($US 326.7m) contract to design, manufacture, supply and maintain push-pull diesel passenger trains for the Etihad Rail project. Neither CAF nor Etihad Rail disclosed the number of trains included in the contract.

The trains will meet European standards with a maximum speed of 200km/h, with capacity for more than 400 passengers. CAF said the base contract is worth more than €250m.

The agreement was signed on June 23 by Mr Shadi Malak, CEO of Etihad Rail, and Mr Josu Imaz, CEO rolling stock at CAF, in the Sakamkam area, where the first station will be built in the heart of Fujairah city. The signing was witnessed by the chairman of Etihad Rail, Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Mr Suhail Mohamed Faraj Al Mazrouei, minister of energy and infrastructure, Mr Iñigo de Palacio, ambassador of Spain to the UAE, and officials from both sides.

The development of passenger services is one of the three strategic projects of the National Railways Programme in the United Arab Emirates. Passenger trains will connect 11 cities and regions in the UAE from Al Sila to Fujairah, including Al Ruwais, Al Mirfa, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Dhaid, and Abu Dhabi.

Rail is expected to reduce journey times by up to 40% compared with road. This includes a journey time of 50 minutes from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and from Dubai to Fujairah, and a 1h 10min journey time from Abu Dhabi to Al Ruwais. The journey from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah will take 1h 40min.

The trains will be equipped to cope with the UAE’s harsh climate, and will provide amenities including infotainment systems, charging stations, and a food and beverage service. There will be ample legroom and an advanced air-conditioning system, with seating divided into first class, business class and economy.

In February, Etihad Rail signed an agreement with First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) to finance passenger services, with a total value of Dirhams 1.99bn. First Abu Dhabi Bank will be the Certified Lead Arranger for the loan.

Construction progress

Before the signing, Nahyan visited the final package of Stage 2 of the UAE National Rail Network, which extends for 145km from Sharjah to Fujairah Port and Ras Al Khaimah, to review the progress of construction work.

During the visit, which started in the Al Suyoh area in Sharjah and concluded in Sakamkam, Nahyan inspected key landmarks on the route, starting with the rail bridge in Al Suyoh, followed by a stop to visit the Al Bithnah bridge in Fujairah. He then travelled to visit tracklaying work in tunnels in Al Hajar Mountains in Fujairah.

Stage 2 has 54 bridges and 20 wildlife crossing points, along with nine tunnels totalling 6.9km. This includes the longest freight tunnel in the Arab Gulf which runs for 1.8km.

In November 2021, Etihad Rail completed excavation works for all tunnels on the route, two months ahead of schedule.

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