Etihad Rail has taken delivery of the first two diesel locomotives bought to operate on Stage One of its new network scheduled to open later this year.
The heavy freight locomotives, built by the US-based company Electro Motive Diesel, were landed at Mussafah Port in Abu Dhabi, before being moved to Etihad Rail's site at Mirfa in the Western Region to be prepared for the opening of the new track.
They are the first of seven type SD70ACS locomotives ordered for the route in 2011 and are designed to withstand the region's arduous climate and geography, and to keep carbon emissions to a minimum. Their arrival follows delivery of Etihad Rail's first covered hopper wagons supplied by China's CSR last December.
The units will haul trains of 110 wagons carrying up to 11,000 tonnes of granulated sulphur on the 264-kilometre new line from Shah and Habshan to the port of Ruwais. "We are fast approaching the commencement of operations for Stage One. The project is progressing on schedule and we are on track to see the first train run by the end of this year," Etihad Rail's chief executive Nasser Al Mansoorisaid.
"This achievement would not have been possible without the dedication and collaborative efforts of all parties … developing a national railway network that will change the face of transportation in the UAE and the wider GCC," he added.
Once completed, the network will run for more than 1,200km across the UAE, carrying both freight and passenger services. It will connect the main mining and mineral sites in the interior with the country's main ports and industrial centres and link the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai to more remote communities.
The network will also connect with the GCC Railway Network - linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.
The 4,500-horsepower locomotives have special features for desert terrain that include moveable sand ploughs, sealed car bodies and a filtration system to screen out dust from the engine intakes. Each locomotive is 22.6 metres long, nearly five metres high and weighs 187 tonnes.
Etihad Rail has already issued invitations to tender for the first three contracts for Stage Two of the planned national rail network. Prequalified companies have been invited to bid for two construction contracts, and a third contract covering railway signalling systems and commissioning.
The lines to be built under Stage Two are the 137km track that will connect Ruwais to Ghweifat, and the 190km line between Liwa Junction and Al Ain.