By Nasser al Harthy www.thepeninsulaqatar.com
There is a need for regulation and legislation before rushing forward with a railway project forgetting that it is a different kind of enterprise, says Geoff Leffek, Regional Rail Director for MENA at Hyder Consulting.
“There is a concern these might be left very late and we will be in a position where we are ready to turn the key on a project, start the trains running, start running the service and yet we don’t have that very critical element in place.”
Leffek was one of the panellists at a session discussing railway projects in the GCC at the World Cup Conference which opened here yesterday. The other panellists included Dr Ulrich Koegler, Partner at Booz&Company, Simmon Summers, Transport Sector Leader for the Middle East, Aedas and Jerry Harrison, Vice President of Rail and Transit Systems, at Parsons.
As for the challenge faced by those who are tasked with marketing public transport in the face of statistics which show a large majority of people in the region preferred using private cars,
Harrison was of the view that these public transports provide clean and efficient transport, but if they do not connect population centres to the employment centres, shopping venues that people want to attend, then the use of such public transport in the region would be limited.
For Summers, perhaps the use of public transport might be symptomatic of the fact that there is a need of inter-connectivity to be able to transfer between, bus, rails, sea, airports, which would enable the usage of public transport to pick up.
Clients need to identify who the passenger is, says Leffek. They need to approach metro and trams from an integrated approach. This is why Dubai metro for instance is getting more and more succesful, because people find it comfortable, relatively fast and safe, he said.
Earlier in his presentation on an overview of the railway project in the GCC, Leffek noted that the total project investment on the project is estimated in excess of $100bn in the coming years.
A lot of projects are coming up, a number of very large projects are under way, including passenger rails, freight rail, metro,, trams, high speed trains etc…
The Qatar Integrated Railways Project total investment is QR130bn ($35bn), including a long distance passenger rail, 100Km from Doha to Saudi Arabia, a high speed rail, 180Km from Doha to Bahrain, a freight network of over 325Km, and another project which include Lusail Light Rail, West Bay people Mover, Eductaion City people Mover and the Doha Metro.
The metro itself will have 98 stations and will be about 330Km of tracks on four lines. Much of this is planned to be constructed and in operation in time for the World Cup 2022. Meanwhile, the GCC railway project would run from Kuwait, down to Saudi Arabia, with a loop through Bahrain and Doha, then down to the UAE, passing through Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and in the future down to Muscat in Oman and ultimately extended to Duqum and Salalah.