A rail network connecting all six states of the GCC that was scheduled to be completed by 2018 might be delayed, according to the National Transport Authority (NTA) chairman.
“What we have aimed for was that whole of the GCC rail should be up and running by 2018,” said Abdulla Belhaif Al Nuaimi, minister of public works and chairman of the NTA.
“But last year, in October during a ministerial meeting, we realised that some GCC countries probably have a delay in their programme.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of Middle East Rail Network 2014, Al Nuaimi said that such delays would be factored into UAE’s rail projects, which will be modified accordingly.
“We cannot finish our network and wait for others to complete their networks,” he said.
“We have also spoken about partial operation of our network if there is a delay in the GCC rail.”
The UAE has plans to invest $25 billion in its railway infrastructure, accounting for 10 per cent of the entire MENA region’s investment in the sector.
Out of that, $11 billion has been allocated to develop Etihad Rail, which aims to connect all the emirates.
Al Nuaimi also confirmed that the first phase of the 1,200km Etihad Rail, which runs from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais, is nearly complete and will be operational soon.
Etihad Rail, which will connect all the major industrial areas in the country, will be joined to the wider GCC rail network.
Al Nuaimi also dismissed any possible levy of tariffs on goods being transported through the GCC rail network.
“There are tariffs by road now but if it is a part of the GCC there should not be tariffs (through rail) and they [GCC rail authorities] agreed about that a long time ago,” he said.
Within the UAE, the NTA is also in the process of creating a new federal law to govern and regulate the railway sector.
“We have completed the first draft of the law and we are revising it today,” said Al Nuaimi.
“Details have been completed and we are confident that by the month of March we will have something at hand along the lines of legalising operations of the rail.”
Abu Dhabi Metro, Abu Dhabi Light rail, the Dubai Metro expansion and Dubai’s tram network are other major rail projects in the UAE.