ETIHAD Rail (ER), operator of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) national rail network, has signed seven agreements furthering rail passenger and freight development at this week’s Middle East Rail 2023.

The exhibition and conference, hosted by ER at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) for the second consecutive year in partnership with the UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, the Department of Culture and Tourism and the GCC Railways Authority, welcomed over 10,000 attendees, including eight ministers from Europe, Britain, North Africa and the GCC, 300 exhibitors, and 600 VIPs, with 30 countries represented in total.

The most significant of the agreements was a the finalising of a 20-year strategic partnership agreement with freight carrier DHL Global Forwarding to form a joint venture that will enable DHL to use Etihad Rail’s network to conduct its main operations within the UAE.

Under the terms of the agreement, DHL will adopt rail as one of its major modes of transport to distribute goods throughout the country via the National Rail Network that links key industrial hubs.

The agreement and the new joint venture’s focus on rail is expected to significantly reduce pressure on road transport and boost trade, commerce and logistics in the UAE, while also playing a key role in helping the UAE meet its environmental commitments.

Etihad Rail says it is committed to contributing to the UAE’s Net Zero by 2050 programme, under which the UAE National Rail Network will help to reduce carbon emissions from road transport by 21% by 2050, with each freight train removing up to 300 trucks from the roads.

“The UAE’s increasing focus is on infrastructure investment in the logistics sector, and DHL Global Forwarding is excited to be part of this journey to support growing capacity requirements through rail freight,” says DHL CEO Middle East and Africa, Mr Amadou Diallo. “Our decades of expertise in rail and multimodal transport solutions, providing fast, secure, and cost-effective connections, make us the right partner to support the development of the railway industry in the UAE.”

“Etihad Rail is pleased to introduce further sustainable transport models within the UAE and continue to stimulate economic growth and sustained social development in the region,” says CEO of Etihad Rail Freight, Mr Gottfried Eymer.

The other six agreements signed by ER at the event were expanded on by ER CEO Mr Shadi Malak, who delivered the keynote address at the Middle East Rail event, and comprised:

  • a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Italian luxury hospitality company Arsenale with the aim of establishing a luxury train experience in the UAE that will help to boost tourism and showcase the country’s heritage and scenic attractions
  • an agreement with MICCO, an integrated logistics provider and part of AD Ports Group, that will see the establishment of an intermodal freight solution “allowing customers to use their time and resources more efficiently and focus on their core objectives”
  • an MoU with Moroccan National Railways (ONCF) to share knowledge and best practice as ER develops its network
  • an MoU with global technology company Uber helping to support ER’s ability to provide accessible transport across the UAE, including in areas with limited accessibility
  • an MoU with drone cargo specialist SkyGo to allow collaboration on freight train drone inspections, using the company’s technology and enabling ER to benefit from its data services while showing the rail company’s willingness to innovate, build on existing digitalisation efforts and establish new processes, and
  • an agreement with the Fujairah Natural Resources Corporation (FNRC), an independent government entity established to supervise and control mining facilities specialising in the extraction of natural resources in Fujairah emirate.