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Rail Sector Boom in the Middle East - UAE Focus

In the 3rd part of my ‘Rail Sector Boom’ blog, I will talk you through the UAE’s plans to improve their existing rail network.

The UAE’s rail network is a few years ahead of some of its neighbours such as Qatar, in that they already have a successful Metro system in Dubai which was opened in 2009. The network has been well utilised in the last 4 years and it was estimated that it over 33 million passengers used the Dubai Metro in Q1 of 2013 alone.

With the success of the Dubai Metro, the UAE has ambitious plans to bring their rail network into to the 21st Century. A planned investment of circa £15Bn is expected in the UAE between now and 2025 with a large proportion of that investment being dedicated to the Abu Dhabi Metro and the Etihad Rail projects so let me run through each of these in turn.

Abu Dhabi Metro (£4.5Bn)
With all the hype surrounding the Doha Metro, the fact that Abu Dhabi is planning its own Metro system seems to have remained under the radar. However, the capital Emirate of the UAE has seen the success of the Dubai, and is in the latter stages of planning its own Metro system. The system will eventually connect Abu Dhabi airport and all key commercial areas of the city.

Companies were invited to register their interest in the project by June this year and pre-qualification is planned to take place before the end of 2013 and tenders being floated in Q1 of 2014. Phase 1 of the project is due to be completed by 2017.

Etihad Rail (£7.5Bn)
Etihad Rail will primarily serve as a freight line in the first instance. It is currently in construction and phase 1 appears to be well underway.  The first phase will connect Ruwais with the Shah gas fields and will operate largely outside of the 2 major Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Phase 1 is expected to be completed in 2014.

Stages 2 & 3 will see the network connect with major Emirates such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as Al Ain and Sharjah. Links with Saudi Arabia and Oman are also planned in due course, as part of the eventual goal to have a rail network capable of linking all of the GCC. These phases will also see the network being used for passengers as well as freight.

The whole network will comprise of over 1,200 kms of track with 10 tunnels planned. It is unclear how many stations will service the eventual network at this stage.

Stage 2 of construction is under final review and construction is planned to start in 2014.

Al Soufah Tramway (£1Bn)
The Al Soufah Tramway is a 14.5km tram system interchanging with the Dubai Metro and servicing some of the major populated areas of Dubai. The system will link the Dubai Marina, Burj Al Arab and Mall of the Emirates whilst also linking up to the monorail of the Palm.

Phase 1 is planned to be completed by Q4 of 2014 and the opening of partial service is scheduled for December this year. There will be a 2nd phase to this project; however details of the 2nd phase are under review until Phase 1 has been completed.

Extension to the Dubai Metro (up to £1Bn)
As mentioned earlier in the article, the Dubai Metro is the UAE’s only existing, major rail system. The current Metro is becoming increasingly popular in Dubai, however with the majority of the system runs along the Sheikh Zahed Road only, therefore the current system is not servicing many parts of the city.

The expansion of the Metro is still in the feasibility and planning stage but it is believed all of the land acquired to complete a more comprehensive system with 3 brand new lines (Blue, Purple and Gold) to add to the existing Red and Green lines currently in operation.

The Green and Red lines will also see extensions of their own. The final plan is for 5 lines totalling over 200km’s in length and 128 stations fully servicing Dubai by 2025.

The exact plans and timescales are heavily linked to the award of the World Expos 2020 which is due in the next month. If Dubai wins the Expos (see my previous blog on this), we can expect to see plans and timescales firmed up for the expansion and work beginning sooner rather than later.

Given the number and size of all the rail projects both confirmed and planned in the Middle East, there will definitely be jobs available for expatriate rail and infrastructure professionals for the next 10 – 12 years at least. The UAE is still the most desirable location in the GCC to live and work for expatriate workers, therefore positions on these rail projects will be in high demand. Applicants can expect the immediate employer recruitment needs to be for candidates with previous experience in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi or Middle East region. However as the work moves to its peak with many projects running concurrently (never mind a busy Asia region and a recovering UK economy), it will be hard to imagine that all of the staff needed to work on these projects can be filled by candidates with previous experience in the GCC giving great career opportunities to those with less or even no rail experience but great skills and capabilities.

If you are a rail, infrastructure or construction professional and are considering working in the UAE or the Middle East region either now or in the next few years, please submit your CV via the Maxim Recruitment website so that myself or a member of my specialist Middle East recruitment team can contact you to discuss some pretty exciting career prospects.

And throughout this blog I didn’t even mention that there is no income tax in the UAE or Qatar!

Best wishes,

Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant
Maxim Recruitment Middle East & UK Regions

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