East gets taste for Metro builds


By Greg Whitaker  www.constructionweekonline.com 

Dozens of urban rail projects are under way, both in the GCC and in the wider region

Saudi HSR will run 450km.
Saudi HSR will run 450km.

With the part opening of the Dubai Metro, we thought we would take a look at other ongoing projects around wider region. It seems that every major city has got a taste for urban rail – which is good news for us as machinery contractors as budgets tend to be large and ring-fenced.

In addition to the systems mentioned here, there are a further six being built across India, the Tehran Metro is set to be expanded in Iran and there is even a plan to get the former line which connects Syria and Jordan running again. All this shows signs that there is a rail revolution on the way, which will need machines at the ready.

Abu Dhabi Metro

It is in the very early stages at the moment, but it seems certain that Abu Dhabi will build it’s own light rail system for getting around the Emirate as part of a master public transport plan. Much of the line is expected to be underground, and it has been suggested that the total length of the network will be more than 130km.

The proposals were sent at the end of August from the Department of Transport to the city’s Executive Council for approval. It is very likely that it will be given the green light, as a virtually unlimited pot (said to be worth US $82bn) is to be made available for transport upgrades, as part of the emirate’s modernization programme.

The metro will mainly connect the proposed Central Business District with Sowwah Island, Reem Island, Saadiyat Island, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Masdar, Capital City District, Emerald Gateway, Zayed Sports City and ADNEC.  

A further monorail track is expected to be 31 km long.

Abu Dhabi Metro would be linked to Dubai Metro and to other cities in the UAE and to other GCC states.

This project is part of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport plan to invest US $82 billion in the transport network of Abu Dhabi, which includes the construction of roads and a Light Rail.  
Mott McDonald and Steer Davies Cleave are the study consultants for the Surface Transport Master Plan of Abu Dhabi.

Phase                           Schedule                           Description

Design                          Q3 2009                            Consultancy contract expected to be awarded

PMC                              Q3 2009                             PMC contract expected to be awarded

Study                            Q1 2010                            Stage1 of the study expected to be completed
                                       Q4 2010                            Study expected to be completed

Construction               Q4 2010                           ITB for main construction contract expected to be issued
                                       2011                                  Construction expected to start

Completion                  2016                                  Project expected to be completed

Haramain High Speed Rail Project (Saudi Arabia)

 While not strictly a metro project, this new railway will only carry passengers, as freight lines are under construction elsewhere in the Kingdom. Many regional contractors will know the voracious demand for materials and equipment as the Kingdom re-embraces it’s love for the rail. However, anybody taking part in this 450km line will not have an easy ride. Apart from Saudi Arabia’s notoriously complex processes, the route from the seaport of Jeddah will cover some of the most hostile terrain in the world.

Interestingly, for a country not given to ostentatious public buildings, the package for the tender actually states that “the stations at Makkah and Madinah shall be exceptional, iconic landmark buildings.”

Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, president of Saudi Rail, said the project would be completed by the middle of 2012.

However, it is the 950km ‘landbridge’ line which is going to present the biggest challenges from an engineering point of view. The interior of the country that this route takes resembles the surface of Mars, and with ambient temperatures of 50 degrees, will be nearly as unpleasant to work in. When completed, it will provide a link from Jeddah to Dammam.


Project Value SAR 6.79bn

Architecture Works (First phase) Foster & Partners and Bupo Harrold

Rolling stock Alstrom

Length 450km

Delhi Metro

 Nobody had great expectations for this system, given that the earlier Calcutta metro project was eventually delivered about a decade late and a staggering twelve times over budget. However, Delhi authorities were keen to learn from past mistakes and hired a technocrat named Ellatuvalapil Sreedharan.

Under Sreedharan’s leadership, a clear schedule of works was drawn up for the first phase of the line. Work began in 1998 on a 65km stretch of line, of which about 13km ran underground. The engineers made extensive use of modern machinery, with a large number of heavy excavators brought in to complete the job, in a country where the much smaller backhoe loaders are the norm. Despite a number of hurdles, such as the peculiar decision mid-dig to change the gauge of the tracks, the first phase was delivered on budget and an astonishing three years ahead of schedule.

The construction second phase didn’t go quite as smoothly, with a number of accidents, including a high-profile bridge collapse where the moving gantry crane (known as a ‘launcher’) was attempting to pull a 400-tonne block of concrete for the next section of the overpass. The entire structure collapsed, flattening a passing bus and killing two.

To add insult to injury, a fleet of mobile cranes were drafted in to remove the wreckage, but due to a poorly thought through lift plan, one toppled over, causing a skittle effect, which knocked down the two surrounding cranes, injuring six. Sreedharan handed in his notice, saying that he felt ‘moral responsibility’ for these health and safety lapses. However, the resignation was rejected by city bosses, as they felt only Sreedharan could deliver the project successfully. As such, the 118km phase is set to open on schedule in August 2010.


Lenght 118km

Final Deadline 2015 (The line will be opned in stages ahead of this date.)

Lead Engineer E.Sreedharan

Type Broad gauge with overhead pick-up

Cairo Metro

It’s the only proper metro system in Africa, but ever since the first phase opened in 1987 it has needed more capacity. With a burgeoning population, experts found that at best the original two lines of the Metro could only handle about half of trips in the city. As such it was decided to put several more lines in, with the work on a third route having started in 2005 and still underway. The contract for the first phase of this new line went to Orascom Construction – a multinational firm based in Egypt. The total length of the line is approximately 30km, though most of it is deep underground in bored tunnels and will be implemented in four phases. The project includes a main workshop adjacent to the western terminal of the line and a light repair workshop at the middle of the line at Abbasia It is also planned that some of the underground stations will be extensively used as ‘commercial centres’ – underground souks in other words.

These stations will be constructed by the cut-and-cover method, which will involve clearing existing buildings on the surface where needed, before excavating and shoring the cut. While all the contractors and subcontractors are busy completing the line in time for opening next year, the good news for anybody else seeking a part of the project is that a further three whole lines are being considered as part of the city’s 2020 plan.

Cairo Metro line 3
Phase 1: central section, 4.3km, 5 stations, underground, Attaba – Abbasiya, interchange with Line 2
Phase 2: 6.2km, 4 stations, underground, Abbasiya – Al Ahram (Heliopolis)
Phase 4: 11km, Al Ahram – Cairo International Airport
Additional three lines planned for 2020