Road, rail and sea infrastructure projects in Qatar are to be fast-tracked to ensure the efficient movement of fans at the 2022 World Cup, Global Arab Network reports according to OBG.
Integral to the plan is a $13bn new international airport by 2013, though $20bn is also slated for road and highway projects and $5.5bn for a new deepwater port. There will be up to $40bn invested on rail construction, with a 340-km, 98-station metro line for Doha and its outskirts and a high-speed connection linking Qatar with other Gulf states.
While the multi-billion dollar commitment to building an integrated transport network was a major selling point of Qatar’s World Cup bid, the infrastructure schemes were developed as part of the failed attempt to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
They include a causeway to connect Qatar with Bahrain, budgeted at $4bn or more. However, work on the 40-km connection has been stalled over plans to add a freight and passenger rail line and a dispute over costs.
According to credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s, Qatar is well-placed to fund the vast infrastructure programme through oil and gas revenues. “We believe the World Cup will have a substantial impact on Qatar’s already promising economic growth over the next few years as the country readies itself to host this major sporting event,” said Luc Marchand, a credit analyst with S&P, in December.
While the transport infrastructure programme will undoubtedly spur economic growth in the lead-up to the World Cup, Doha will also need to make the most of its investment after the tournament’s final whistle. South Africa has struggled to find uses for some of the World Cup facilities it built for 2010, with stadiums and the transport links connecting them to urban centres underused.
Qatari officials have stressed that the infrastructure built for 2022, along with further investments in targeted sectors such as tourism and logistics, will continue to pay dividends after the end of the football spectacle.
One problem the country may face is sourcing skilled labour. Some of Qatar’s neighbours have also announced large-scale transport infrastructure programmes, including multi-billion dollar light and mainline rail projects in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE.
Over the coming decade, the regional demand will also rise for building materials and equipment, as well as the technology needed by modern airports and ports, possibly leading to rising costs. Shortages and delays could put pressure on what may become tight deadlines.
There is also a risk, at least with the proposed international rail links, that neighbouring nations may not complete their components, affecting World Cup fans considering making use of the train for travel to the UAE.
While Qatar has a head start with its transport scheme, with its transport master plan drafted almost five years ago and 12 years until the World Cup, intense international scrutiny of its cup build-up means it will need to leave nothing to chance.