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All you need to know about UAE’s National Rail Network – Etihad Rail Project

The railway will redefine logistics and transport in the region, providing a modern, safe, efficient and sustainable network which will connect the seven emirates of the UAE to its neighbouring GCC countries.

Dubai: In a vision to bring all the emirates together, Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of the UAE National Rail Network, was launched in 2009. The rail network was instigated to connect all of the UAE’s major ports with distribution centres and will link industrial hubs with urban and suburban communities.

Over the years, Etihad Rail has signed a series of agreements throughout the UAE to secure the rail network’s transport corridors in all the emirates.

Emphasising the importance of developing the Etihad Rail network, Srinath Manda, programme manager for transportation and logistics practice for the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia at Frost and Sullivan’s, said that the project can definitely be considered a “landmark” in the UAE’s transportation sector with an estimated cost of Dh146.8 billion.

Connecting the GCC

“Once completed, it is expected to transform logistics and transport not only in the UAE but also the wider GCC region,” said Manda, adding that Etihad Rail is expected to provide a safe, efficient and sustainable transport network that will link all corners of the country and eventually link the UAE to other countries in the GCC with 1,200 kilometre track.

Meanwhile, the UAE’s strategic location in the Gulf earmarks it as the major crossroads for emerging international trade and commerce between East and West.

The network is expected to connect the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east. “The rail network is designed to facilitate rapid surface transport movement in the country for cargo in the initial stages and then the passengers in the later stage,” said Manda.

“Thus it is expected to open up new trade corridors for enterprises and travel opportunities for individuals,”Manda says the project would help to connect the places such as the airport, the central business districts and other commercial zones, plus suburban areas.

“Regional trade between Africa, the Middle East and East Asia offers significant potential for the long-term growth of the UAE transport sector, as the country plays a key transport role as a transhipment and re-export hub,” said Dr Nasser Saeedi, chief economist of the Dubai International Financial Centre.

It was announced in September that construction works for Package A of Stage Two, which extends over 139 kilometres, and its connection through Al Ghuwaifat on the border of Saudi Arabia with Stage One was completed. This step brings the company closer to completing the UAE National Railway Network on schedule.

Boost to the GDP

The UAE’s national railway system is expected to bring an increase of Dh3.5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 and the project has an economic return rate of 15.5 per cent, said an official at Etihad Rail, the railway’s master developer and operator.

When completed, the Etihad Rail network — which will cater to both freight and passengers — will span a total of 1,200 km across the UAE. The network will also form part of the GCC Railway Network – linking the UAE to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the west and Oman via Al Ain in the east.

Etihad Rail completes excavation for GCC’s longest rail tunnel

In July 2021, Etihad Rail completed the longest tunnel in the Gulf. Running up to 1.8 kilometre, the tunnel is part of Package D on Stage Two of the network’s development.

Package D runs for 145 kilometre from Dubai and Sharjah, through the Al Hajar Mountains, towards Fujairah. This includes the construction of nine tunnels through the mountains at a cumulative length of 6.9 kilometre and additionally includes 54 bridges and 20 animal crossings. The new tunnel excavation achievement is a significant step for the project’s development in 2021.

The route passes through some of the most complex topographical areas in the construction of the network. In total, the completion of the tunnel contributes to ensuring development continues to be on schedule. The UAE National Rail Network is on schedule, with track laying having recently commenced at Saih Shuaib, which is the railhead for track running toward Abu Dhabi and Dubai as part of Stage Two.

The overall track on Stage Two will run from Ghuweifat on the border of Saudi Arabia to the emirate of Fujairah on the UAE’s eastern seaboard.

Etihad Rail’s biggest commercial partnership

In August 2021, Etihad Rail forged a partnership with Western Bainoona Group, an Abu Dhabi based road construction company. It will deliver rail freight services to the Group for their construction materials from Western Bainoona Group’s facilities in Fujairah to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

This is one of Etihad Rail’s largest commercial deals for Stage Two of the rail project. As much as 4.5 million tonnes of Western Bainoona Group’s needs will be transported annually on 643 trains from facilities in Fujairah to logistics hubs in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi (ICAD) and Dubai Industrial City.

“The network will enhance the capacity of companies operating across the UAE,” said Mohammed Khalfan Al Hameli, Chairman of Western Bainoona Group. “Companies can develop their business by redirecting assets and reducing transportation costs, efficiently utilising their time and resources to become active players in the development of the UAE.”

The length of each train will be around one kilometre. Etihad Rail is allocating 70 wagons for each train, with an approximate capacity of 7,000 tonnes per trip. The partnership will reduce road traffic by 120,000 truck trips annually.

Mohamed Al Marzooqi, Executive Director of Rail Relations Sector at Etihad Rail said, “Etihad Rail delivers cost-effective and time-efficient transport solutions, reducing road traffic in the UAE. In doing so, we protect the environment by reducing carbon emissions. Additionally, we deliver significant benefits for the logistics, infrastructure, and transport sectors across the UAE,”

Want to stay in the UAE for Expo 2020 Dubai for the six months of its seasons? Here are your visa options

Dubai: If you have just arrived at Expo 2020 Dubai and are planning to stay for the entirety of the six months, you might be wondering how you can ensure that your visa is in placehroughout the season. Or, you might still be outside the UAE, planning to visit the event and wish to stay for six months. Regardless of your situation, if you do want to ensure that your tourist visa is valid for the entire season of six months, here is what you can do.

1. Applying for an extendable 90-day tourist visa

The UAE offers tourist visas for 30 or 90 days, and more recently for five years.

If you do apply for a 90-day tourist visa, you can extend it for another 90 days. Here is how you can do so.

Who can apply for your tourist visa?

1. Airlines

Each airline has some conditions, which must be met in order for your visa to be arranged by them. One of the conditions is flying with them. When booking your ticket, you can also enquire about applying for a visit visa.

2. Tourist visas through agencies and hotels

Licensed travel agents and hotels in the UAE can arrange a tourist visa for you, provided you purchase the ticket through them and maintain a hotel reservation with the specific hotel.

You can also contact travel agencies in your country for any tourist packages available to the UAE in collaboration with a local tour operator.

3. Through UAE-based family and friends

As per the VisitDubai website, UAE residents (friends or relatives) can apply on your behalf subject to guidelines.

How can I extend the visa?

The visa can be extended by providing the necessary documents and making the fee payment, according to Sirajudeen Ummer, a Public Relations Officer with Dubai-based First Gate Business Services.

Documents required for processing inside the country visa change

• Passport copy (which should be valid for at least six months)

• Passport size photograph

• Old visa tourist/cancelled visa copy

• On arrival nationalities would only require Passport copy and photograph if they have entered UAE using on-arrival facility.

• If the visa was applied for by a relative or friend, they may need to submit a copy of their residence visa page and UID number.

Cost

The 90-day visa costs approximately Dh720.

“The cost may vary slightly based on the travel agency’s service charges,” Ummer told Gulf News .

You can apply for the second renewal before the expiry of the first one against Dh600 each time of renewal.

2. Long-term, multiple entry tourist visa for five years

In case you are looking to visit the UAE regularly over the next few years, a new visa option has opened up for tourists. The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) has provided details of the five-year multiple entry tourist visa for all nationalities through the authority’s website.

Is a UAE-based sponsor required for the visa?

According to the details provided when the visa was announced, the visa does not require a UAE-based individual or organisation to sponsor the visa. Tourists can apply for the visa on self-sponsorship.

What is the maximum duration of stay on the visa?

As per the announcement, a tourist can stay for 90 days on each visit. This can be extended for another 90 days. This means that you can stay through the Expo season on this visa.

How to apply for the five-year tourist visa

Step 1: Log on to the ICA website – www.ica.gov.ae

Step 2: Select ‘E-channel Services’ from the main module on the website.

Step 3: Select ‘Public services’.

Step 4: Select the service ‘Visa – multi-trip / tourist long-term (5 years) for all nationalities / visa issuance’

Step 5: Fill in the application form with your personal details as well as your passport details.

Step 6: Attach the following documents:

• Coloured photograph

• Passport Copy

• Medical Insurance copy

• Bank statement for the last six months with a balance of at least $4,000 or its equivalent in foreign currencies in the last six months.

Step 7: Review your application.

Step 8: Make the payment for the fees. The application fee is Dh650.

Note: It is also important to check the PCR test and vaccination requirements before you book a ticket, after you have received a visa to travel to the UAE.

Expo 2020 impact: Dubai business confidence hits 10-year high

Confidence among Dubai businesses reached its highest level in 10 years, fuelled by improved business activity with the beginning of the world’s largest event Expo 2020, according to a survey released by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Sunday.

The survey results revealed that 76 per cent of companies noted improved business confidence in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to 66 per cent in the third quarter.

While 78 per cent of businesses hope that Expo 2020 to benefit their businesses in the coming months.

The six-month-long mega event will attract millions of visitors within and outside the UAE, leading to increased spending in the country. World Bank also projected faster real GDP growth of 4.6 per cent for the UAE for 2022 on the back of increased tourist inflow during the mega exhibition.

Hamad Buamim, president and CEO of Dubai Chamber, said that trade, tourism, hospitality and logistics are the sectors that are expected to see the most business activity during Expo 2020 Dubai.

Economists also expect that the emirate’s GDP will grow faster in late 2021 and 2022 due to Expo 2020.

The Dubai Chamber survey revealed that 83 per cent of Dubai businesses expect an improvement in business conditions in Q4 2021 compared to 66 per cent in the previous quarter.

Dubai businesses identified global supply chain restrictions and rise in commodity prices as key challenges for them.

Buamim said growing optimism in the business community and promising economic prospects are being created by Expo 2020 Dubai.

He said increased government support for the private sector, success in overcoming Covid-related challenges, new business incentives, easing travel restrictions and higher oil prices are among the other key factors that contributed to the positive outlook.

Sheikh Mohammed announces Dh290-billion budget till 2026

The UAE Cabinet approved on Tuesday a Dh290 billion federal budget for five years until 2026 to mark the start of the nation’s next 50-year phase of growth journey with greater “confidence, optimism and global aspirations.”

The 2022-2026 budget was approved by the Cabinet chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, during its meeting held at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The budget was presented following a meeting of the General Budget Committee held at the Expo 2020 Dubai venue on October 6, which was chaired Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

Last week’s General Budget Committee meeting was attended by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs; Mohamed Hadi Al Hussaini, Minister of State for Financial Affairs; and Khaled Mohamed Balama, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE.

The committee discussed the five-year federal budget in light of the recent updates to the Ministry of Finance’s budget development procedures. The committee also reviewed cash flows expected in the 2022 fiscal year and the five-year period extending from 2022-26, taking into account projected revenues of federal entities, and public spending priorities related to development projects. The meeting also reviewed the federal government’s expenditure policy for the 2021 fiscal year and the revenues of federal entities in the third quarter of this year. It also reviewed national income in light of the growing pace of economic recovery.

Dubai announces public-private partnership projects worth nearly $25 billion

The government of Dubai on Sunday announced a diversified portfolio of public-private partnership (PPP) projects worth more than Dh25 billion ($6.81 billion).

The investments, announced at a PPP conference held in the regional tourism and business hub, include seven urban development projects worth Dh22.58 billion, 14 road and transport projects worth Dh2.39 billion and eight projects in health and safety at Dh526 million ($1 = Dh3.6724).

Expo 2020 Dubai: Adnoc announces six-day paid leave for employees

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has announced a special six-day paid leave for all its employees to enable them and their families to visit Expo 2020 Dubai.

The leave can be used at any time during the mega event, which runs from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.

The company has said it is granting this special leave to ensure its employees have the opportunity to explore the immersive cultural experiences, innovations, and solutions on display at the global event, which is being held under the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”.

It is keen for its employees to participate in and gain new insights and perspectives from this unique event, which is bringing the world together in Dubai to shape a brighter and more prosperous future.

The six-day leave is in line with the directives of the Abu Dhabi Government and supports the company’s broader initiatives aimed at helping its employees achieve a healthy work-life balance.

Expo 2020 Dubai: Al Wasl Plaza to woo visitors with immersive theatre shows

Al Wasl Plaza, the beating heart of the Expo 2020 Dubai site, will turn into an immersive theatre this weekend, with never-before-seen experiences that will connect its stage with the dome’s 360-degree projection screen – the largest of its kind in the world.

The evening shows, directed by Expo 2020, afford a unique opportunity for every guest to experience the audio and visual mastery that mesmerised audiences worldwide at the Expo’s opening ceremony on September 30.

Kicking off proceedings at 6.50pm on Thursday is ‘Ousha & The Moon’ – a 12-minute immersive experience paying tribute to legendary Emirati poet Ousha bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi.

The show takes us into the mind of a 12-year-old girl and a dreamscape, where the moon speaks and the threads of destiny are weaved. This is also the fantastic mind of a mute child, whose words would one day capture the heart of a nation.

The first showing of ‘Harmony’ will follow shortly after at 8.30pm, immersing the entirety of Al Wasl Plaza in a glowing ocean fantasy brought to life, with spectacular live performances and immersive projections.

Locked away in a digital world as the beauty of our planet hangs in the balance, Expo mascots Rashid and Latifa also need our help in ‘Mr Scrap Returns’ – an epic 20-minute display of theatrics and song that is guaranteed to excite children and parents alike.

This melding of live performance and 360-degree projection debuts at 6.40pm on Friday.

From Tuesday, October 12, experience the spirit of the wind as you are swept up by a magical fusion of dance, music and puppetry in ‘Stars in the Wild’ – a mystical journey led by a Wise Man, his Oryx and a menagerie of colourful worldly creatures that live between dreams and reality.

The creative force behind each of the shows, Artists in Motion (AIM) – led by director and head of creative Richard Lindsay – has been a leading influence on many highly-acclaimed productions, such as ‘King Kong’ on Broadway, the daily ‘A Symphony of Lights’ light and sound show in Hong Kong, and the opening ceremony of the inaugural European Games in 2015 in Baku.

Etihad Rail completes construction work on Package A of Stage Two of the UAE’s national rail network

Chaired by His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Crown Prince’s Court of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of Etihad Rail, the company’s Board of Directors held a virtual meeting on 09/29/2021 to review the latest progress on the construction of the packages the second stage of the UAE national rail network and other key achievements in the third quarter of 2021.

At the meeting, it was announced that the construction of the second stage package A, which extends over 139 km, and its connection via Al Ghuwaifat on the border with Saudi Arabia with the first stage, which extends 264 km from Habshan to Al Ruwais. This significant step brings the company closer to the scheduled completion of the UAE national rail network.

His Highness paid tribute to the company and its team for their dedication, efforts and dedication in making it possible to reach this important milestone in record time and two months ahead of schedule. HRH added that at a time when many sectors were slowing down due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Etihad Rail continued to advance and complete the project in accordance with the clearly defined objectives and comprehensive work plan. Throughout this time, Etihad Rail has ensured the continuity of business operations while taking the necessary health and safety precautions for all employees.

At the board meeting, His Highness stated that Etihad Rail will continue its efforts to realize the vision of wise leadership to develop this important strategic project which is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UAE. He stated that Etihad Rail will connect key areas in the seven emirates over a 1200km route to promote the UAE’s social and economic development as well as its global positioning in line with the UAE centenary in 2071.

In the course of 2021, Etihad Rail was able to reserve 40% of the network’s annual transport capacity, which will amount to 60 million tons of goods per year after the completion of the second phase. This has been achieved through the commercial agreements Etihad Rail has signed with, among others, Stevin Rock , one of the largest quarrying companies in the world, the Western Bainoona Group and Al Ghurair Iron & Steel (AGIS).

The company will continue to enter into additional commercial partnerships and strategic arrangements to enable various companies to benefit from the unparalleled services, economic and logistical advantages of the UAE’s national rail network.

During the meeting, the Board of Directors reviewed the company’s financial results for the third quarter of 2021 and approved the capital budget for 2021. It also approved the Audit Committee’s charter, which includes a number of policies and procedures related to corporate governance, such as transparency, integrity and institutional Work, contains. In addition, the agenda for the general assembly of Etihad Rail DB, the operating partner for Stage One, was reviewed.

Etihad Rail will continue to step up efforts to achieve further milestones in construction and operations in line with the vision of wise leadership and the UAE Golden Jubilee celebrations as the country looks to the future.

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Oil builds on seven year-high amid global energy shortages

US crude futures advanced 1.7 per cent Tuesday heading closer to $80 a barrel

Dubai: Oil extended its rally from a seven-year high a day after OPEC+’s decision to keep its supply agreement in place as energy prices spike stoking concerns that more petroleum products will be used in power generation. US crude futures advanced 1.7 per cent Tuesday, heading closer to the key, psychological $80-a-barrel level. At an OPEC+ meeting on Monday, Saudi Arabia and its partners opted for only a modest output increase of 400,000 barrels a day for November. US natural gas futures jumped to a 12-year high as global as global shortages of that fuel fanned fears of a shortage in the U.S ahead of winter in the northern hemisphere.

“There is no room for error in the system,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group Inc. “If we get a cold winter these prices could go up dramatically.”

Meanwhile, the industry-funded American Petroleum Institute reported US crude stockpiles rose 951,000 barrels last week, according to people familiar with the data.

Both the US and global crude benchmarks have surged this month with rising energy prices stoking fear of inflation forcing consumers to pay more for everything from gasoline to heating, food and plastics.

Winter demand

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. forecast that power generation could add an extra 650,000 barrels a day to oil demand this winter due to high gas prices.

Underlying oil market gauges are also showing signs of strength. West Texas Intermediate crude’s so-called Dec.-Red-Dec. spread, a favored trade of the world’s hedge funds, topped $7.50 a barrel this week, the strongest on a rolling basis since 2019.

Meanwhile, in the US, analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimate a crude stockpile rise of 700,000 barrels last week. The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute will release inventory data later Tuesday, while the U.S. government will release its weekly tally on Wednesday.

Expo 2020 Dubai: Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Hamdan tour multiple pavilions on Day 2

The UAE Vice-President kicked off his tour of the Expo 2020 Dubai on day two with a visit to the Saudi and Oman pavilions.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, was accompanied by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, the Dubai Media Office tweeted.

Sheikh Mohammed also met with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, during a visit to the France pavilion at Expo 2020 on Saturday.

The leaders spoke about the prospects for strengthening the strategic partnership between the UAE and France and the importance of the global event in creating a better future.

On the Expo’s first day, the UAE Vice-President toured the UAE, US, and Kazakhstan pavilions.

“The East meets West at Dubai, and they talk in Dubai,” he said on Friday.

Sheikh Mohammed and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, were present at the star-studded opening ceremony of the Expo on Thursday night.

Participants from 192 countries have converged on Dubai for the mega global event, which is being held for the first time in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region.