The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman have signed a $3 billion deal to link each other’s borders through a cross-border rail project, in a major expansion of rail infrastructure in the Gulf.
During a two-day state visit by the UAE’s president, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Oman, in which he met with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq in the capital, Muscat, the two leaders signed the deal to connect Abu Dhabi with Sohar, to the north of Muscat, by rail.
Under the agreement, Etihad Rail – the developer and operator of the UAE National Rail Network – and Oman Rail will jointly establish an equally-owned company named the Oman-Etihad Rail Company.
Possessing an investment value of US$3 billion to design, develop and operate the joint railway network, the 303 kilometres-long railways will primarily link Sohar to Abu Dhabi. While passenger trains enable travel time from the two cities to be 1 hour and 40 minutes, and from Sohar to Al Ain to be 47 minutes at a maximum speed of 200 kilometres per hour, freight trains will be able to run up to 120 kilometres per hour.
When completed, it will reportedly allow passengers to travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 50 minutes and from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah in 100 minutes. Around 70 per cent of the line has reportedly already been constructed, but a launch date for the passenger service has not yet been revealed.
By the year 2030, however, it is expected to carry millions of passengers on an annual basis between the major cities. The cross-border service will serve both passengers and trade, and is hailed as a boost to the two countries’ economic, transport and trade capabilities.
According to the Emirati state news agency, WAM, the Chief Executive of Etihad Rail, Shadi Malak, said the agreement “lays out a strategic roadmap for a sustainable project that will contribute to strengthening the solid relations between the UAE and Oman.”
The group CEO of ASYAD, Oman’s global integrated logistics service provider, Abdulrahman Salim Al Hatmi, also stated that it will “offer trade and logistics companies outstanding investment opportunities, and empower manufacturing and industrial activities to quickly expand beyond borders. The envisioned network will complement our comprehensive set of ports and logistics assets, augment our competitiveness and open faster access to global markets.”