By Shweta Jain, Senior Reporter www.gulfnews.com
Dubai: Etihad Rail, the UAE’s national rail network, will eventually link to the city metros and the wider GCC to boost connectivity across the region and help regional tourism and cross-border trade.
Emphasising the importance of developing the Etihad Rail network, Frost and Sullivan’s Srinath Manda, programme manager for transportation and logistics practice for the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, said that the project can definitely be considered a “landmark” in the UAE’s transportation sector with an estimated cost of $40 billion (Dh146.8 billion).
“Once completed [in 2015], it is expected to transform logistics and transport not only in the UAE but also the wider GCC region,” said Manda, adding that Etihad Rail is expected to provide a safe, efficient and sustainable transport network that will link all corners of the country and eventually link the UAE to other countries in the GCC with 1,200km of track.
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The network is expected to connect the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east. “The rail network is designed to facilitate rapid surface transport movement in the country for cargo in the initial stages and then the passengers in the later stage,” said Manda.
“Thus it is expected to open up new trade corridors for enterprises and travel opportunities for individuals.” Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s two passenger rail projects developed as a part of its Abu Dhabi 2030 Programme, namely the Abu Dhabi Metro and Abu Dhabi Light Rail Transit, are expected to provide a highly efficient and well-integrated transport network connecting all the key locations in the UAE, according to Frost and Sullivan’s analysis.
Manda says the project would help to connect the places such as the airport, the central business districts and other commercial zones, plus suburban areas.
While the capital’s light rail system is expected to be completed by 2015, its metro rail system is expected to be completed by 2021.
Commenting on the infrastructure integration, Dr Nasser Saeedi, chief economist of the Dubai International Financial Centre, said it is a decision that needs to be taken at the federal level as opposed to the level of each emirate.
“Federal political structures such as the US, Australia, Canada and others coordinate infrastructure policies at the federal level leading to common standards and services, bene-fiting from economies of scale and network economies,” he said.
Even as the short and medium term outlook for the UAE’s aviation and overall transport and infrastructure sector seems to be indicating a slowdown due to political disturbances in the Middle East and sluggish economic conditions in Europe, the US and other parts of the world, the sector is set for aggressive growth in the coming years.
As Frost and Sullivan’s Manda points out: “The long-term outlook seems positive.” He added that regional trade between Africa, the Middle East and East Asia offers significant potential for the long-term growth of the UAE transport sector, as the country plays a key transport role as a transhipment and re-export hub.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s strategic location in the Gulf earmark it as the major crossroads for emerging international trade and commerce between East and West. More info