New metro networks being planned and built across the Middle East can be a catalyst for sustainable urban development but careful planning is essential to provide long-term flexibility, says Atkins’ regional transport strategist Roger Cruickshank.
Addressing construction industry leaders at the annual MEED Qatar Projects conference today (Wednesday 11 March), Roger explained that the dynamic nature of the Middle East’s growing cities means planners must consider how the needs of the market and local populations may change.
He said: “Over time we expect to see a huge amount of new property development around new metro stations in the Middle East, but we have to take into consideration that many parts of our cities are still in the early stages of development. We therefore need to be flexible to change because the demands of today are not the same as those of tomorrow.
“This is in contrast to established cities such as London, Singapore and Hong Kong, where the urban context is generally mature and well understood, enabling a greater degree of clarity and certainty when planning new developments.”
Roger believes that Middle East developers who enable sufficient design flexibility to permit change will be able to maximise their returns far more effectively, while also offering universal benefits to communities, businesses and rail operators.
“A residential tower today, with the appropriate internal structure, could become, at least in part, an office tower tomorrow,” explained Roger. “This has a knock-on effect because it means a change in passenger footfall which impacts both passing trade and rail revenues.
“Flexibility therefore enables government and local agencies to encourage change, where needed, to stimulate areas and to find the right balance. This is about getting the essential ingredients right for people-friendly, commercially viable and environmentally sustainable communities.”
Roger said the amount of transformational work that is being planned across the region places huge demands on local communities and infrastructure – and it’s up to companies like Atkins to ensure development occurs seamlessly for all involved.
“‘We’re in the midst of a transport transformation which will result in a huge shift from roads to rail in many of the region’s major cities, most immediately Doha and Riyadh,” added Roger.
“This is really exciting but it also puts a big responsibility on all stakeholders involved to make sure we work together to get the best possible results which will enable successful, vibrant and healthy cities.”
Roger drew on analysis from Atkins’ Future Proofing Cities report, which was produced in partnership with the UK Department for International Development and University College London. The report assessed 129 major cities across Africa and Asia and was developed to help tackle risks to long term prosperity and growth.
Atkins provides design and engineering services to clients in the rail, property, infrastructure and energy sectors across the Middle East. The company is at the forefront of metro design services in the region, having delivered multidisciplinary design and civil works management services for Dubai Metro. Atkins is currently lead designer for Doha Metro’s Red Line South and Gold Line packages, and for lines 4, 5 and 6 of Riyadh Metro. More info