UAE’s national railway network operator Etihad Rail has reportedly suspended the tendering process for the second stage of its 1,200km railway project as it reviews the investment.

The Etihad Rail project is a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Railway Network, linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia through Ghweifat in the west and Oman through Al Ain in the east.

Expected to cost approximately $11bn, stage two of the project also connects vital areas such as Mussaffah, Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali Port in Dubai.

"Etihad Rail is one of the biggest and most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UAE."

Etihad Rail chairman Nasser Alsowaidi said: "Etihad Rail is one of the biggest and most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UAE.

"As we enter 2016, we have been working closely with our partners and stakeholders to assess our strategic priorities for the year.

"As a result, a decision has been taken to suspend the tendering process for stage two whilst we review the most appropriate timing for this investment."

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According to the operator, the delay to stage two would not affect operation on stage one between Habshan, Shah, Mirfa and Ruwais.

Last December, Etihad Rail secured 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.

Etihad Rail has currently transported four million tonnes of Sulphur from Shah and Habshan to the port of Ruwais on behalf of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).

Once stage one of the project reaches full commercial capacity, the operator intends to transport more than seven million tonnes of sulphur a year.