Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of UAE's rail network, has achieved a major construction milestone in the country's AED50 billion ($13.6 billion) railways programme - the largest integrated system for transporting goods and passengers across the country - by successfully connecting Abu Dhabi's Khalifa Port to the mainland with the construction of the emirates’ first rail marine bridge.

The UAE Railway Programme includes three key projects; the first is the Freight Rail, which includes the Etihad Rail freight services.

The second is the Rail Passenger Service that aims to connect 11 cities - starting from Al Sila to Fujairah. At a speed of 200 km/h, the service will connect these cities within the UAE, where passengers can travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 50 minutes, and from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah in 100 minutes.

By 2030, the number of passengers is expected to reach more than 36.5 million annually, said Etihad Rail in its statement.

The third project is the Integrated Transportation Service, where an innovation centre will be established to ensure the integration of the smart transportation solutions. A network of light rail will be connected to the Rail Passenger System to facilitate transportation inside UAE cities.

"The one-kilometre bridge, which runs parallel to the road link, will help improve the flow of goods to the region, and reduce shipping and trade costs," said Khuloud Al Mazrouei, the Deputy Project Manager for Etihad Rail, while outlining the details of the latest project update in a video shared on social media.

Al Mazrouei said the connection was completed with the installation of the last of the 100 T-beams.

A first of its kind in the network, the marine bridge is being constructed by a total of 320 workers, clocking more than 1 million manhours so far, in compliance with the top environmental and global standards.

The team faced several challenges while building the bridge in a marine environment and managed to tackle them successfully.

"We have installed all the T-beams in the marine bridge, which will connect Khalifa Port with the network. This achievement was completed after installing the last T-beam for the bridge, which extends over 1 km, bringing the total number of T-beams to 100," she explained.

According to her, the railway will link the principal centres of trade, industry, manufacturing, production, logistics, population and all the major import and export points of the UAE, as well as forming an integral part of the GCC railway network.

"The most important feature of this bridge is that it runs parallel to a road bridge of the same length, which connects the mainland of the emirate of Abu Dhabi with the sea container terminal," remarked Al Mazrouei.

"This ensures a smooth flow of tidal currents along the sides of the port and preserves the coral reefs," she added.

In May, Etihad Rail had announced that 75% of the work on the network had been completed. Construction had been divided into two stages, the second of which includes four packages.The bridge is being built as part of the Package B of the second stage.

Etihad Rail’s network will run for 1,200 km across the UAE, from the border of Saudi Arabia to Fujairah.

Once operational, the service is expected to carry more than 36 million people annually by 2030.

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