Middle East countries set the trend

With 397 million citizens, the Middle East region will experience a 31% population growth reaching 500 million by 2025 and the transport system will have a major role in setting sustainable economies, providing quality transport services and integrating networks regionally and internationally.

The transport priorities of this region rely on the development of the railway system, including the urban rail transport system, its promotion and implementation of state-of-the-art technologies to meet both passenger and freight mobility needs, as well as the new trends of digitalisation and implementation of measures that will reduce climate change effects.
The development and improvement of the railway transport system and the elimination of missing links are projects that will support the integration of countries by developing international corridors and increasing accessibility, by connecting the region to the other networks and providing connections between the large urban centres, attracting investments and economic growth.
According to UIC, at the moment, there are 20,000 km of railways under construction, while several other lines in the planning phase.
In order to meet mobility needs, especially considering the increasing level of urbanisation, over the next decade, Middle East will invest hundreds of billions of dollars in railway and rail public transport projects, many of them under development. The allocation of massive investments in new projects will result in the construction of a railway network of 67,000 km in the region.

GCC railway

The 6 countries decided to build a railway network with a total length of 2,177 km that includes over 180 km connect-ed to traffic hubs, transport facilities and industrial cities. In order to establish the network, Kuwait will build 145 km of lines, Bahrain 36 km, Qatar 283 km, Oman 306 km, UAE 684 km and Saudi Arabia 663 km. Railway projects are estimated at USD 240 billion. Projects amounting to USD 69 billion are currently under development. Although there are delays of the different implementation phases, the countries’ commitment to build the network still stands.
As regards financing, Saudi Arabia and UAE are the countries with the biggest investments which has made the projects advance to 50% (Saudi Arabia) and to 18% (UAE), followed by Qatar (17%), shows a study elaborated by Terrapinn and Ventures Onsite.

Saudi Arabia

Railway infrastructure investments will amount to an annual growth share of 7.88% by 2022. The Ministry of Transport plans to increase the private sector’s contribution by 50% in rail development and operation projects.
Passenger transport services on the 1,250-km railway, Riyadh – Al Majma’ah (North-South railway), could be launched this year after Saudi Railway company commissioned the 1,486-km Al Jalamid-Az Zabirah cargo railway at the end of 2015. North-South Railway project includes the construction of a 2,400-km network for freight and passenger transport.
Another important project of Saudi Arabia is Makkah – Madinah high-speed railway which should have been commissioned this year. However, AlShoula consortium (including 2 Saudi companies and 12 Spanish companies), which is responsible for the project, extended the deadline for the first quarter of 2018. Haramain HSR, connecting Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah, consists of the construction of a 450-km double railway. 35 trains will run on the railway providing transport to 166,000 passengers/day.
Riyadh Metro – is the largest urban transport project developed so far by Saudi Arabia. The metro system includes the construction of a 176-km network (6 railways and 85 stations) and could be operated in 2019. Lines 1 and 2 are developed by BACS consortium, lines 4, 5 and 6 by FAST consortium, while Line 3 by ArRiyadh New Mobility.
Line 3 Tunnel was completed in January 2017. The line is the longest of Riyadh Metro network (40 km of which 11 km in the underground).
Excavation works to Line 5 Tunnel were completed. For this project, Alstom came up with a full-size mock-up of the Riyadh Metropolis train.
For Line 1 and 2 projects, Siemens introduced the Inspiro train last year.
In January 2017, King Abdulaziz Project for Public Transport in Riyadh announced that 48% work on the Riyadh metro was completed. This comes 21 months after the excavation works began in seven underground tunnels.
Jeddah Metro Company has projects for urban transport development, plans that also include the construction of a metro network and of a LRT. The metro network includes 4 lines with a total length of 150 km, served by 85 stations. The LRT network will be formed of three lines with a total length of 37 km and 39 stations. Line 3 (9km) also includes a 28-km extension. Moreover, there is also Corniche tram project with a length of 16 km (15 stations).
Makkah – the metro network plan includes the construction of 45-km of railways and 22 stations in the first phase. The development strategy includes its extension to 6 railways (182 km) and 88 stations. Makkah Mass Rail Transit Company (MMRTC) is to announce the winner of the tender with bids technically and financially reviewed last year.


The 2030 Strategy focuses on the establishment of an integrated transport system that would support the shift of traffic to public transport, while relying on railway transport. Qatar Rail implements the Long Distance Passenger and Freight Rail project, as part of the GCC rail network. The project consists of the construction of 486 km in several phases. The long-distance network includes three lines for mixed traffic, Doha – Saudi Arabia, component of GCC rail, Doha – Dukhan si Doha – Al Shamal, Doha – Bahrain high-speed rail and Mesaieed Port – Ras Laffan freight transport rail. These projects will allow 8,000 passenger trips per day by 2021 and 24,000 passenger trips per day by 2031. Qatar Rail also implements public rail transport projects.
Doha metro will have a network of 3 lines (with 37 stations) in the first phase. It will be commissioned in 2020. The second phase will include the construction of the fourth line and the extension of the other three. 72 more stations will be built. In September 2016, Qatar Rail celebrated the finalisation of tunnelling works with 111 km of tunnels having been bored since 2014. 21 TMBs worked simultaneously to achieve this. The commissioning of the three lines is expected in 2019.
Lusail LRT is another rail transport project developed by Qatar Rail, the city of Qatar being located north of Doha. Measuring 38.5 km of railways, the network will have 4 lines. At the middle of 2016, construction works were 35% completed. The project will be operational in 2020.
In April 2016, Qatar Rail presented the design for Doha Metro and Lusail Tram: ‘Al Faras’ for the Doha Metro and ‘Al Mehmel’ for the Lusail tram. “The official unveiling of the Doha Metro and Lusail Tram designs is an occasion for us to look at how close we’ve come to bringing our vision to life. This new milestone is an opportunity for us to bring the progress of our projects back to the future of transport in Qatar; one that is designed and built to world-class standards of modernity and innovation but, most importantly, that remains deeply rooted in our country’s history and community,” Saad Ahmed Al Muhannadi, CEO of Qatar Rail said.

United Arab Emirates
It is among the top countries with important investments in rail projects with Strategy 2021 as objective. Under the strategy, a rail network will be built to connect important urban and commercial centres. After the completion of the projects, railway transport will define the transport and logistics sector in the region.
The railway network will measure 1,200 km providing connections to Saudi Arabia and Oman, within the GCC network, as well as to main transport hubs, freight terminals and distribution centres.
Last year, Etihad Rail DB (a JV of Etihad Rail – 51% and DB – 49%) officially launched commercial operations on the first Shah – Habshan – Ruwais railway (254 km). Last year, Etihad Rail suspended the tendering process concerning phase II of Mussafah railway development to Khalifa and Jebel Ali (Gulf) ports, then to the frontiers with Saudi Arabia and Oman. The railway will be 628-km long.
UAE railway projects require investments of over USD 30 billion and, apart from the national network, they also include the metro and the LRT of Abu Dhabi, skyTran Yas Island, as well as Dubai’s public rail transport projects – extension of the metro and implementation of the tram system new phase.
Abu Dhabi metro will have the greatest impact over public transport. The authorities plan to build a network of 131 km, providing connections to the suburbs and to developing communities (such as Saadiyat, Yas Islands and Al Raha Beach). The first phase will see the construction of lines with a total length of 42.5 km, while during the following phases, the authorities will initiate the construction of another 70 km of metro lines.
Apart from this project, the city will benefit from ultramodern transport systems. At the end of 2016, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Transport (DMAT) announced the conclusion of an agreement with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies to elaborate the feasibility study of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain connection with a Hyperloop system.
At the same time, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Hyperloop One are elaborating the feasibility study for an Abu Dhabi link, using the new transport system concept.
SkyTran Yas Island project is also an ultramodern transport system for which Miral signed a MoU with skyTran® Inc., a NASA Space Act Company. The agreement permits the launch of the feasibility study for the implementation of the project in Abu Dhabi. The project will connect Yas Island and, eventually, Abu Dhabi International Airport.


Dubai public transport is a way of living. The number of people using these services is increasing from one year to another. In 2016, 543.6 million passengers used public transport, more users compared to the previous year. By mode of transport, the metro system had the highest share of 35% of total users. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) plans to implement projects to increase public transport share to 20% by 2020 and to 30% by 2030.
In the third quarter of 2016, the authorities signed an important contract to develop the metro system: the construction of Route 2020. Alstom-led Expolink Consortium, which also includes Acciona and Gulermak, signed the EUR 2.6 billion contract to build the Red Line extension (Route 2020) and to upgrade the existing line. The project includes the construction of the 15-km line, of which 11.8 km suspended and 3.2 km in the underground. The extension will have 7 stations, of which one transfer station – Nakheel Harbour – and one station within the World Expo site.
The tram system will also be developed, a project for which RTA published the design bids for phase 2 of the project. It includes the extension of the network by 4 km to Mall of the Emirates Madinat Jumeirah and Burj al Arab.
The extension project will also include phase 3, consisting of the construction of the railway along Jumeirah Beach Road to 2nd December Street. This section will provide connection to the metro system and Palm Monorail.

by Pamela Luica

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