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Rail Megaproject: $11-Billion United Arab Emirates Network

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Etihad Rail Co.
Emirates' rail network would carry 50 million cargo tons and 16 million passengers per year, according to its owner.
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Project: Emirates Rail Network

Cost: $11 billion

Construction period: 2012-2018

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Rail Co., the government-owned company that is set to build an estimated $11-billion passenger and freight rail network across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), says it will award the project’s first construction contract before the end of the year.

The company is set to select an unspecified number of contractors from at least 10 local and international bidders, according to reported comments by Ehitad Rail CEO Richard Bowker. He said the bidders were “invited,” the online report said. Contract values also were not disclosed.

Work on the first 266-kilometer phase of the 1,200-km rail network, the first in the UAE, is set to begin "before the end of 2011" and be completed by 2014, says an Etihad Rail spokeswoman. Two other phases are set for completion by 2018.

The network will mostly be for cargo shipments among ports and industrial centers in the UAE and neighboring Arab nations. The spokeswoman says the first section wil transport up to 22,000 tons daily of granulated sulphur that are a byproduct of sour gas extraction in the Shah and Habshan gas fields.

but it also will include a commuter line between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, according to reports. Bowker has said that the participating UAE nations are expected to set up a “rail authority” to oversee the system’s projects and possibly others on connecting routes in other countries.

In April, Etihad, formerly Union Railway Co., selected a Parsons Corp.-AECOM joint venture as the project's program manager, according to sources from the U.S. firms who did not wish to be named and published reports in the Middle East.

The joint venture replaced a team of Parsons and Paris-based SYSTRA, whose PM contract was canceled in January, just two months after the railway announced its selection of the firms. Reasons for the termination were not disclosed publicly or to team members.

Etihad also canceled in January a contract for preliminary engineering services awarded last fall to Parsons Brinckerhoff, also with no public statement or explanation to the firm.

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