The UAE leads the ways in innovation regionally by envisioning a better tomorrow and promptly delivering on it. The UAE stands at 33rd position in the 2021 edition of Global Innovation Index, among the 132 economies featured representing 99 per cent of global GDP, while ranking number one in the Arab world for the sixth consecutive year — a recognition of the country’s flexible and innovative economic model and advancements in overall infrastructure.
Alongside the drive towards innovation, the UAE continues to enhance its position as an inward investment destination and global logistics hub. Initiatives such as the World Logistics Passport, launched in October 2019 to streamline and facilitate regional as well as international trade, reinforce the country’s growing status as a pivotal global hub for multimodal trade.
As the developer and operator of the UAE’s national railway network, Etihad Rail is committed to supporting national efforts, acting as a catalyst for economic growth and sustainable development. Alongside this, a core part of our vision and strategy is to be a Good Neighbour to the UAE and to the communities, in which we operate, which means we aim to facilitate growth, enable economic transformation, and address industry challenges, while simultaneously driving positive change. Each decision is made with the objective of creating net impact for society and the communities surrounding the rail network.
Rail and innovation
One of the most crucial challenges facing the global rail industry is reducing its carbon footprint further to meet UAE climate change targets. Rail organisations are actively working to be more sustainable by adopting innovative technologies and solutions. At Etihad Rail, each aspect of transport mobility is evaluated to deliver positive impact. In April 2021, Etihad Rail signed an agreement with Stevin Rock to transport raw materials produced in the Ras Al Khaimah operations of the quarrying giant to Abu Dhabi on its freight network. In addition to enabling faster and more cost-effective delivery of construction materials, this move will deliver significant environmental benefits and will reduce the number of trucks on the road by 100,000 annually.
Etihad Rail locomotives meet Tier 3 engine emission levels, a set of emission standards adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to minimise emissions and control nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide and carbon monoxide levels.
Recently, Etihad Rail collaborated with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) to provide satellite imagery and data, which will augment construction operations, bolster environmental protection, and support sustainability goals.
As Etihad Rail unlocks a new era for freight and passenger transportation and logistics, it also acts as a steward for the surrounding environment, wildlife and nature. The focus is on working with partners with the specific skills, resources and expertise to ensure the stewardship of the UAE’s natural resources and ecosystems while continuing on the journey of building the nation’s railway.
Etihad Rail has joined hands with Emirates Nature-WWF on a three-year partnership to work towards mitigating the effects of rail development on the natural environment and local communities. Last year, in celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, Etihad Rail, Emirates Nature-WWF, the Fujairah Municipality, the Fujairah Environment Authority and the Fujairah Adventures Centre, supported by the Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority, inaugurated the historic Al Bithnah Nature and Heritage Trail in the emirate of Fujairah.
The development of the trail marked an important milestone as part of the landmark agreement between Etihad Rail, Emirates Nature-WWF, the Fujairah Environment Authority and the Fujairah Adventures Centre. The agreement supports sustainable development within the local community, provides valuable opportunities for eco-tourism, protects the environment and biodiversity and preserves the UAE’s natural heritage.
Examples of projects such as this demonstrate how Etihad Rail is helping preserve the natural, cultural, and historical heritage that will contribute to diversifying the local economy.
Etihad Rail has also been working with The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), as part of which over 550 Ghaf trees have been successfully translocated and a further 590 trees planted so far. We are also constructing wildlife corridors along the length of the approximately 1,200km long project, and are integrating 95 animal crossings and culverts across the project. The aim is to safeguard the country’s natural resources and biodiversity, while ensuring that critical habitats and animal species are not harmed in any way.
Care for nature
Etihad Rail’s corporate philosophy is founded on an ethos of care for natural ecosystems, the local communities in which the network passes through, and ensuring that logistics solutions meet global best practices for sustainability. While moving millions of tonnes of freight every year, the rail network is actively promoting conservation and improving the state of biodiversity locally. As Good Neighbours we seek to not only transform the landscape of transport forever, but also create tangible environment impact, making way for a richer, more diverse ecosystem in the UAE.
Khuloud Al Mazrouei is deputy project manager at Etihad Rail
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