The vast, open plains of the Arabian Desert provide some of the most opportune landscapes for a major railway development, and this was a key consideration behind the ground-breaking railway project, which is introducing an entirely new industry – and transport infrastructure – to the UAE.
Building a new future for the UAE’s transport sector
Etihad Rail DB, a joint venture between Etihad Rail, the developer and owner of the UAE’s national railway network, and Deutsche Bahn (DB), one of the world’s leading passenger and logistics companies, is responsible for the operation and maintenance of Stage One of the national railway network, providing integrated transport solutions to ensure the delivery of safe, efficient and reliable services.
Built to the highest international standards, and with the first phase already up and running since 2016, the state-of-the-art project is set to redefine logistics and transport in the region, providing a modern, safe, efficient and sustainable new transport system.
Safe, efficient and reliable services delivery
Stage One of the project has been operational since 2016. Today, 22,000 tonnes of granulated sulphur are being transported each day from Habshan and Shah to Ruwais for Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). Year-to-date, Etihad Rail DB has moved more than 6.5 million tonnes of granulated sulphur, bringing the total volume of sulphur transported since inception to 28 million tonnes in 2,817 train trips. As such, the railway has contributed to a total annual CO2 saving of 44,000 tonnes per year.
Significant progress is also being made on the training and workforce development front. Since inception, Etihad Rail DB has been committed to developing industry-leading skills right here in the UAE and to promoting international knowledge transfer to empower and nurture local talent.
In 2017, Etihad Rail, in partnership with Abu Dhabi Vocational Education and Training Institute (ADVETI), introduced the UAE’s first Rail Diploma programme. Through this programme, Etihad Rail DB provides occupational training and shared learning opportunities for Emirati students, who can specialise in one of four professions – train captain, train controller, rolling stock technician and systems technician. The programme has seen great success to date, with the first batch of the UAE Rail Diploma students joining Etihad rail DB for their final year work placement in September 2019.
Ensuring operational readiness at the highest international safety standards
Stage One is 264km long and includes 10 under-bridges, 29 over-bridges, 12 pipeline crossings and 30 culverts that stretch across the desert’s terrain.
Besides the operations, Etihad Rail DB’s core competence is the maintenance of both track and rolling stock throughout the year. This knowledge is particularly important as one has to consider that for example high temperatures in summer, coupled with the changes in the levels of humidity, can lead to a corrosive ‘Sabkha’ environment. These conditions must be managed well to ensure full operational readiness of all assets.
This is why, much time has been spent by Etihad Rail DB on training and maintaining the highest international safety standards, which paved the way for the successful achievement of outstanding performance and safety records.
Sand mitigation is key
Sand movements are usually unpredictable and Etihad Rail DB’s team works diligently to make sure that the track remains unobstructed and safe for the passage of trains. The team of Etihad Rail DB has also employed its practical experiences and learning to develop innovative mitigation measures. Driven by practical experience, the team has tailored a unique Weather Analysis Program Dashboard, which is consistently utilised, to effectively identify the wind’s impact on areas that had been categorised as ‘hot spots’ for sand movement.
And if immediate action is required, Etihad Rail DB’s team stand ready. When sand was blown onto the tracks in February and March 2019, Etihad Rail DB’s teams mobilised immediately, deploying the necessary resources and manpower to clear the tracks, while ensuring to adhere to environmental regulations.
Safety is Etihad Rail DB’s language
With safety in mind and at the heart of Etihad Rail DB’s operations and activities, the company boasts a word-class safety record, adhering to a stringent set of Health, Safety and Environmental regulations and international standards and utilising competent industry experts.
As such, Etihad Rail DB pays utmost attention to the safety of its employees and operations, ensuring the implementation of international best practice and safety standards at all times and across all aspects of the business. All employees are experienced and trained to conduct a safe railway operation, and consequently receive sufficient practical safety training before partaking in any type of work related to the railway infrastructure. Etihad Rail DB also strives to raise awareness around safety among communities and the general public by carrying out safety awareness and community outreach campaigns.
The future is bright
Since day one, everyone involved in this railway project has been working to build a new industry that will redefine logistics and transport in the region to support the government’s mission to build a diversified economy.
Etihad Rail DB is right at the heart of this progress.
In 2019, the company was appointed to provide 'Shadow Operator' services for Stage Two of Etihad Rail, owing to its long expertise and success in managing Stage One operations and maintenance. In its 'Shadow Operator' role, Etihad Rail DB will aim to utilise its expertise from Stage One to provide consultancy services to Etihad Rail in preparation for Stage Two.
Building an entirely new industry takes skill and commitment and Etihad Rail DB is diligently contributing to continuously realising this future.