what’s it prefer to experience on Etihad Rail?


It is a dream come true, says Ahmed Al Hashemi with a smile, strolling alongside the brand new railway bridge in direction of Dubai.

Beneath is the E77 motorway, to the west the sprawling Expo 2020 Dubai web site and throughout within the east the huge UAE desert.

Just some many years in the past camel trains would have handed by between Abu Dhabi and Fujairah. An arduous journey that might take days.

However now an iron railway is carving a everlasting route by the nation, with diesel engines reducing the journey time to about 100 minutes.

The Nationwide was granted uncommon entry to the Abu Dhabi to Dubai line, and the journey we took presents a style of what passengers can count on as soon as the service is launched.

“We’re constructing one thing right here for generations to return,” says Mr Al Hashemi, the manager director of the passengers sector at Etihad Rail.

We start the journey on the railhead in Abu Dhabi’s Saih Shuaib. It’s a sprawling industrial web site with its personal manufacturing unit for making railway sleepers and stacks of latest line ready to be laid.

“The road is simply behind this dune,” says Mr Al Hashemi. Passenger providers haven’t began but so we’re travelling on an inspection prepare. “It’s the place all of the trains between Abu and Dubai will run.”

The motive force blasts the horn, backs onto the mainline after which we choose up pace as we journey down in direction of Dubai. On each side, the UAE’s surroundings unfolds. We cross sand dunes, ghaf bushes, houses and factories. The monitor then curves parallel to Emirates Street (E611) with the vans, buses and automobiles on the busy motorway showing like dots within the distance.

Subsequent is Al Maktoum Airport, with Emirates A380s on the airport’s aprons seen from the home windows. The journey is clean, with the quiet damaged solely sometimes by the motive force sounding the horn. It’s in all probability among the many first few occasions {that a} prepare’s horn has been heard on this a part of the UAE. Quickly it’s going to turn out to be commonplace. In beneath an hour we attain our vacation spot: the brand new bridge that enables the prepare to cross the E77 (Expo Street).

“It is a main freeway that I’ve been by many occasions in my life,” says Mr Al Hashemi, standing on the bridge and gazing down the motorway.

“For those who requested me years in the past if there’d be a railway line crossing the nation by this exact same level, it could sound like a dream.

“However immediately it’s a actuality.”

The superior scale of the mission is obvious from the bridge. Laying down railway line is usually referred to as “ironing the land” and it’s no misnomer. Metallic tracks are being put down in each instructions at a fast tempo, whereas staff construct bridges, relocate pipes and cables, and assist to rehome wildlife, the place wanted. We journey over bridges, previous energy traces and beside forests.

Enormous stockpiles of ballast – the angular rocks used on the trackbed which were quarried from the UAE’s mountains – are piled at intervals alongside the way in which. It’s clearly a herculean effort.

Ahmed Al Hashemi, executive director of passengers sector, at Etihad Rail on the bridge over the E77 Expo Road. Behind is an inspection train that tests the line. Victor Besa / The National

A launch date for the passenger service has not been introduced but however the line will first join 11 cities and areas throughout the UAE. Future route additions are anticipated, and this transient journey additionally offers a glimpse on the railway’s potential to create new neighbourhoods.

Locations that after appeared distant will now be only a quick prepare experience away. And the place the railway now passes by empty desert, quickly cities might spring up.

However Etihad Rail additionally presents a extra poetic and unburdened method to get round that harks again to a golden age of journey. The stations, Etihad Rail say, will turn out to be “city centres” and intention to have a good time the romance of journey, bringing to thoughts the good railway stations of the world, resembling New York’s Grand Central Station and London’s St Pancras. Free of the stress of the roads and with extra time on their fingers, the railway will encourage passengers to loosen up.

For now, although, the solar has set and we should return. The motive force takes us again up the road to Abu Dhabi because the prepare’s gentle cuts a beam by the darkness, whereas a full moon is out by the point we get again to the railhead.

“I keep in mind standing on a sand dune or on a hill or mountain,” says Mr Al Hashemi, reflecting on his early days with the railway.

“To return again and see tracks laid? It fills me with satisfaction.”

This story was first printed in January 2022

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Up to date: March 02, 2022, 5:22 AM


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