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Curiosity, surprise and nostalgia are just some of the emotions Dubai residents in the suburban areas feel when they encounter locomotives and trains as Etihad Rail takes shape in the UAE.
“The first time I heard the honking sound, I was surprised,” said Fouad Ashraf, a resident of Arabella in Mudon. “I was able to recognize that it was a train because I am used to listening to trains in India. To be honest, it felt very nostalgic. Back home, I used to hear the trains all the time when I was living in my college hostel. Since then, I hear it regularly, particularly in the morning around 7.30.”
The 1200-kilometer-long Etihad Rail project will connect all seven emirates and 11 major cities starting from the UAE’s border with Saudi Arabia up to the country’s border with Oman. It is expected to revolutionise travel in the country when it is complete. Earlier this year, the linking of Abu Dhabi and Dubai by a 256km railway line was complete and residents around the new Dubai area have been able to watch the network progressing.
Kesar Behal, a Grade 9 student at the Winchester School, Jebel Ali was excited to be able to see the train from her house in Remraam. She shot this long-distance video from the balcony of her house.
“After successful functioning of Dubai Metro, I was thrilled to hear about Etihad Rail,” she said. “I am eager to see how it will connect different emirates and GCC countries.”
In August, Etihad Rail tweeted a striking aerial photo that showed the railway line cutting through the Hajar Mountains headed towards the coast of Ras Al Khaimah. The UAE Rail Network is expected to reduce commute times by up to 40 per cent and is expected to serve more than 36.5 million passengers annually across the country by 2030.
Rineesha Mohammed Ali, who lives in Nshama Town Square, has been able to see the train track take shape from her house. “The location is a constant hive of activity,” she said. “The tracks have been laid and the pillars have been branded with Etihad Rail logos. It is actually quite exciting to watch the whole thing take shape. Sometimes if you are lucky enough to look out of the window at the right time, you can see locomotives on the tracks.”
She says she wakes up most days to the honking sound of the trains. “I think there is some testing happening,” she said. “Almost every day the honks begin at 7.30 in the morning. Sometimes you can even hear it on the weekend.”
Last week, the UAE signed a landmark agreement with Oman to establish a railway network that will cut travel time between the two countries — to as short as 47 minutes. “It is quite exciting to think about going to Oman in less than an hour,” said 15-year-old Aadidev Menon, who lives in Remraam. He and his mother, Sapna, often see the trains chugging past while driving to or from school.
“Last week I saw it at around 3.30 pm while on my way back from school,” he said. “The engine was beige colour with Etihad Rail written on it and the remaining compartments were all black. It was a freight train. It reminded me a lot of the trains that I have seen around in India.”
A top Etihad Rail official had earlier said that the railways will be integrated with all modes of transport so that passengers can get a “door-to-door” service to ensure they reach their final destination from the station in the utmost comfort.
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