Etihad Rail has received safety clearance from the UAE Federal Transport Authority (FTA) to start commercial operations on the 264km Habshan-Shah-Mirfa-Ruwais line.
The rail line begins at the Shah gas fields in the south of UAE and connects to the gas distribution and processing facilities at the port of Ruwais in the north.
The rail line will be initially used to transport freight and later passenger services.
The project is split into two sections. The first section received the authorisation and operates between Shah gas field and the gas processing and distribution facilities at Habshan in the north. It will be used to transport 10,000t of granulated sulphur per day.
The project’s second stage will connect the railway to Musaffah, Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali port and will see the railway extend to the Saudi and Omani borders.
The rail route forms part of the wider UAE network, spanning across 1,200km and the future GCC network, said Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of the country’s national rail network.
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A joint venture of Etihad Rail and German Rail (DB) is responsible for operating and maintaining the railway.
FTA minister of public works and board of directors chairman Dr Abdulla Bilhaif Al-Nuaimi said: "We are very pleased to have granted these important safety authorisations for the first stage of the UAE’s national rail network, allowing Etihad Rail to begin commercial operations.
"This is a result of the combined efforts of the FTA, Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi, the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai, Etihad Rail and Etihad Rail DB to ensure that this important strategic project for the future of the country operates to the highest standards."
Over the last year, Etihad Rail has transported around three million tonnes of sulphur during trial operations on the new railway, on behalf of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
Etihad Rail chairman Nasser Alsowaidi said: "The start of commercial operations is one of the biggest milestones we have achieved to date and it is an incredibly proud day for Etihad Rail, for the UAE and for the wider Middle East transport sector.
"These authorisations are testament to the FTA’s confidence in our company’s abilities to safely operate the railway, according to the highest international standards."
"We now look forward to taking our operations to full commercial capacity, which will see Etihad Rail transport as much as seven million tonnes of Sulphur every year."
In addition to the operational and maintenance agreement with ADNOC, Etihad Rail is also in advanced commercial and technical negotiations with other prospective partners, including DP World, ESI, Arkan, and others.
Image: UAE Offcials signing the authorisation. Photo: courtesy of Etihad Rail.