November 23 - Etihad Rail - the master developer and operator of the UAE's national railway network - has awarded the Civil & Track Works works contract for the first stage of the network, that will link the western region cities of Habshan and Ruwais by

The successful joint venture was selected by way of a competitive tendering process, following an international-standard process of prequalification, short listing and tendering, which commenced in the last quarter of 2010. The AED3.3 billion (USD0.898 billion) Civil & Track Works contract comprises the design, procurement and construction of the railway infrastructure, in addition to the testing and commissioning (on a design and build basis) of all assets relating to the completion of the first phase of the project. In addition to that, the contract includes the earth works and track's site grading, bridge structures, communication systems, and the development of the depot at Mirfa.

This contract award follows the earlier official signing by H.E. Nasser Al Sowaidi, chairman of the Board of Directors of Etihad Rail, of the company's agreement with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) for the transportation of up to seven million tonnes of granulated sulphur annually. This agreement - along with the Civil & Track Works contract award - will see the commencement of construction of the first phase of the network.

Commenting, Richard Bowker, CEO of Etihad Rail, said: "We are so delighted to announce the appointment of the Civil & Track Works contract for the first stage of the network. This milestone contract truly marks the start of the realisation of a national railway network on the ground and beyond the planning stages. Thanks to our team's unwavering dedication, passion and commitment, our landmark project is making massive progress and actual construction is now imminent. With this key contract in place and with our signed agreement with ADNOC this week, our vision is becoming a reality and we're getting closer and closer to seeing the first trains run in 2013."

Once complete, Etihad Rail's AED40 billion 1,200 km route network will connect urban and remote communities throughout the country. The network will facilitate trade, open up communication channels and foster economic development. The network will also form a vital part of the GCC Railway Network - linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.