Etihad Rail has awarded a major contract for a Dh40 billion railway project that will eventually link the major cities and towns of the UAE. The company announced yesterday that PCM Strescon Overseas Ventures Limited will design and manufacture the railway sleepers and build a facility for phase one of the railway network — the 266km route linking Shah, Habshan and Ruwais in Abu Dhabi\'s Western Region. The awarding of this contract marks a major milestone for Etihad Rail and comes ahead of the laying of the first tracks for the 1,200km network next year. PCM Strescon, a manufacturer of pre-stressed concrete sleepers, has been active in Saudi Arabia for some time, operating two factories in the kingdom which boast the world\'s highest production capacities and have supplied more than 2.6 million sleepers to the North South Railway Project of Saudi Arabian Railways. Export channel For the Etihad Rail network, PCM Strescon will oversee and manage the design, manufacturing, maintenance and storage of the railway sleepers that will carry the trains transporting granulated sulphur — in partnership with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company — for export at the port of Ruwais. Etihad Rail CEO Richard Bowker said: \"We are delighted to announce that Etihad Rail will be working with PCM Strescon, a leader in the industry. \"This award clearly highlights that we are moving full speed ahead with the railway network — one that will transform the transport sector in the UAE. \"We look forward to announcing news of further important contract developments over the coming months.\" Etihad Rail\'s Dh40 billion railway project is forecast — over the next two decades — to grow to transport up to 50 million tonnes of freight and 16 million passengers a year, connecting population centres and opening up channels for trade. Vital part When complete, the UAE-wide network will change the way people and goods move across the country by providing a modern, safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable method of transport, and will form a vital part of the GCC Railway Network.