Let the train take the strain

Rail has never taken off in this region for a variety of reasons. Now though, things are beginning to change. Saudi Arabia is already pressing ahead with the Saudi Landbridge and now the UAE is seriously studying a national rail system, linking all seven emirates. On top of this, the long term dream of the pan-Arab rail network is also now receiving high-level attention.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  January 1, 2006

Let the train take the strain|~|train2.jpg|~||~|The Middle East is to railways what England is to fine cuisine and Germany is to comedy. However, this may be about to change. Saudi Arabia is already pressing ahead with the Saudi Landbridge and now the UAE is seriously studying a national rail system, linking all seven emirates. On top of this, the long term dream of the pan-Arab rail network is also now receiving high-level attention. However, whether all of this talk leads to action remains to be seen. The advantages of rail as a means of transport are clear. It is eco-friendly and cost effective, as well as being quick. A modern express train can go faster than a Formula 1 racing car, for instance. Rail has never taken off in this region though. This is for a variety of reasons, relating to distance and cost. It is also just not as glamorous or fun as speeding down Sheikh Zayed Road in a brand new Mercedes, which has held back support among the local population, who have traditionally been less concerned about cost efficiency. Now though, things are beginning to change. The growth of the local economy and of road traffic levels, particularly in the UAE, is forcing the authorities to look at alternatives. Rail may well provide an option that local logistics companies should support. A national rail network would allow businesses here to move freight at any time of the day, unlike the current road regulations, which would cut costs and ease operations. It will probably be a while though before trains start to operate in the UAE, but even a serious study should be welcomed, as it shows that the government is aware of the local logistics problems and is looking at possible solutions. Let's just hope the rail plan continues on the express line and does not get shunted into a siding. ||**||

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