The UAE is focussed on developing its rail infrastructure to operate cargo services at present, Abdulla Belhaif Al Nuaimi, minister of public works and chairman of the UAE’s Federal Transport Authority (FTA) has said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Middle East Rail conference in Dubai, Al Nuaimi said operating passenger rail services is not an immediate consideration.
“The priority is cargo, other options are still in discussion,” he told Gulf Business.
When asked if there was a tentative date for the launch of passenger rail services, he said: “I will find it difficult to say when it will come in place.”
Abdullah Salem Alkatheeri, executive director – Land Transport at FTA, reiterated that there were no concrete plans for passenger services.
“[The plan to operate passenger services] is not cancelled but no date has been set as yet,” he said.
The UAE is developing Etihad Rail, a Dhs40 billion rail network stretching 1,200 kilometres across the country, which will eventually connect to the GCC rail network.
The first phase of the project, completed at an estimated cost of Dh4.7 billion, runs between Shah and Habshan to Ruwais in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier this year, Al Nuaimi confirmed that the UAE government is allocating Dhs700 million to start construction on phase two. He also said that the main contract for the second phase has been awarded.
Work on the wider GCC rail network, which will connect all six Gulf states, is also continuing, although the project is not expected to be completed in line with the original deadline of 2018.
None of the countries have officially confirmed a delay in building rail networks, but some are still in the tendering phase or are just beginning work.
“The UAE and Saudi can meet the deadline. If that line is operational, then other countries can just add in their lines when they are ready and 2020 might be the appropriate date for all,” Al Nuaimi said.