UAE: Etihad Rail's first passenger train journey; route, service explained

Luxury trains, travel map and more: What you need to know about UAE’s passenger trains

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Sahim Salim

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Published: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 10:56 PM

The UAE offered a glimpse into its highly anticipated passenger trains during the first rail journey between Abu Dhabi city and Al Dhannah region. Videos and photos posted recently show the swanky train chugging through the desert railway line.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, was on board the inaugural passenger rail journey along with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s (Adnoc) executive leadership team. Here is what you need to know about the journey and the UAE’s passenger trains.

Q. What is the Abu Dhabi-Al Dhannah route and who will it serve?

In November last year, Etihad Rail and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) signed an agreement to establish rail services between Abu Dhabi city and Al Dhannah in Al Dhafra.

About 250km west of Abu Dhabi, Al Dhannah is home to 29,000 residents. The transformation of the rural desert town began in the 1970s when it was identified as the site to house the industrial staff population of Adnoc.

Through the latest partnership, Adnoc employees can travel between the Capital city and Al Dhannah on a train in the future. No launch date has been announced for the rail service that is currently “under development”.

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Q. What do we know about the first rail journey?

Photos and videos show the train transporting officials through the desert. The minister and top officials were seen seated inside a 4-bogey passenger train as they discussed the different aspects of the journey.

Q. What’s the UAE’s passenger train service and when will it be rolled out?

The rail passenger services will connect 11 cities from Al Sila to Fujairah. Trains will zoom between stations at speeds of up to 200kmph. They will reduce commute time by 30-40 per cent compared to other modes of transport. A launch date has not been announced yet, but by 2030, the number of passengers is expected to reach more than 36.5 million annually.

Q. There was an announcement about a luxury train. What’s that?

Over the weekend (January 27), Saudi Arabia announced a partnership with Italian luxury hospitality company Arsenale to roll out a luxury train service called 'Dream of the Desert'. The same company had signed an agreement with Etihad Rail in May last year to roll out a luxury train experience in the UAE. It will travel throughout the Emirates and extend to the wider GCC, once the Gulf-wide railway becomes operational.

Featuring 15 luxury carriages, the train will chug from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Fujairah, offering views of the mountains on the border with Oman, and the Liwa desert, with its world-famous oasis.

Q. Is the Etihad rail operational right now?

In February last year, the UAE announced the completion of its national rail network. The country launched a 900km railway network and began the operation of freight trains with a fleet of 38 locomotives and more than 1,000 wagons. Since 2016, Etihad Rail has been operating a 264km route, transporting granulated Sulphur.

Q. Which areas are connected via rail? Do we have a map of the route?

Etihad Rail’s 900km network extends across the UAE, from the border of Saudi Arabia to that of Oman. According to its website, the railway links the principal centres of trade, industry, manufacturing, production, logistics, population, and all the major import and export points of the UAE. It forms an “integral part” of the planned Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) railway network.

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