When I first moved to Dubai and began that twice-daily commute to Abu Dhabi, nothing would have made me happier than a passenger rail line linking the two cities.
And really, it surprised me that, apart from the Dubai Metro, which opened last year, there is no real rail network in the UAE. Logistics is a key component of the UAE economy, and usually rail is a big part of what makes one efficient. But here, ships come into very busy UAE ports and can only unload their containers into trucks, which then disperse out into the Arabian peninsula.
The UAE government is trying to change that by creating the Union Railway Co. of Abu Dhabi. The government-backed railway company is just starting to hire engineering and construction firms to design a 1,300-kilometer network costing $11 billion.
Scheduled to open in 2018, Union hopes to connect its energy and chemical industrial parks and refineries in the western part of Abu Dhabi to the Habersham oil fields and a large oil and gas development in Shah. The line will continue to the port at Jebel Ali in Dubai and through the emirates of Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, which will connect the UAE with Oman.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have similar efforts underway and eventually a GCC-wide rail system could emerge, linking businesses from Muscat through the GCC and Levant and into Turkey – and then Europe.