The Federal Government issued a decree yesterday officially establishing the Union Railways Company, with a capitalisation of Dh1 billion (US$272m), to oversee a planned national rail system.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE, established the new company to develop a freight and passenger system throughout the seven emirates, the state news agency WAM reported.
The planned system has been reported as a dual-track line stretching from the Ruwais oil and chemicals centre in Al Gharbia to the northern emirate of Fujairah.
The company will be fully owned by the Government and engage in “the owning, leasing, renting, purchasing and selling of trains, as well as in investing in the transporting of passengers and goods and all businesses related to a modern railway network”, WAM reported.
The decree formalises a group that had been in the planning stages for some time. A rail committee composed of members from the National Transportation Authority, the Abu Dhabi Basic Industries Corporation and delegates from each emirate is already planning the alignments of the network.
It will eventually become the UAE portion of a wider GCC Railway plan linking the six member states, which is awaiting approval from GCC ministers.
Dubai will inaugurate its metro system in September, while Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport (DoT) is planning light rail systems for trams and metros by the middle of next decade, as part of plans for an integrated transit network.
Nader Reslan, the regional sales director at Bentley Systems, which provides IT solutions for the rail industry, said the region’s investments in rapid transit were a boon for the private sector, as many western nations had postponed rail investment since the global recession.
“It is a great opportunity for us,” Mr Reslan said. “The GCC in general, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia in particular, have confirmed that they are keeping their budgets for infrastructure.”
The first phase of the rail system is expected to be built in Abu Dhabi. With an emphasis on serving the emirate’s developing industrial sector, it will connect the Musaffah industrial area, Khalifa Port and Industrial Zone, and the Al Ain and Abu Dhabi airports.
The Government is next expected to make announcements on the Union Railways board of directors. Last week, UK media reported that Richard Bowker, a chief executive of the British rail and buses firm National Express, was leaving the company to head up Union Railways.
Ivan Gale www.thenational.ae