In its Qatar National Vision 2030 development plan, the country has identified infrastructure building as key to engendering “a dynamic and more diversified economy”. Added to this long-term outlook is the impetus created by hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, during which athletes and spectators from around the world will play in Qatar’s stadiums, stay in its hotels and move around its capital. With some 96,000 visitors expected to be present during each day of the month-long event, transport readiness will be vital to ensuring success.
Budget & Spending
In the 2019 budget QR49.4bn ($13.6bn) – or 24% of total projected spending – was allocated to infrastructure, transportation and communication, with significant portions of this going towards road and rail projects. The 2019 funding represents the continuation of a trend stretching back to 2013 that has seen the government outlay upwards of 20% of its total annual budget on infrastructure. In December 2018 business intelligence firm MEED named the Public Works Authority ( Ashghal) and Qatar Rail – the authorities responsible for developing the country’s road and rail networks – as the second- and fourth-largest bodies, respectively, in the GCC by infrastructure project awards between 2013 and 2018. During this time combined awards totalled approximately $36bn.
Qatar has worked diligently to develop an extensive road network, with Ashghal announcing in April 2018 that the country’s total road length more than tripled from 1700 km in 2013 to 6000 km by the end of 2018.
This expansion has largely taken place under Ashghal’s Expressway Programme for the development of 800 km of expressways, and the Local Roads and Drainage Programme to lay 4000 km of smaller roads and install drain infrastructure. To achieve these goals, the authority estimates it will spend some 85% of its total anticipated expenditure of QR45bn ($12.4bn) on local roads and highways over the five years from 2019 through to 2023.
With Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup plans aiming to create the shortest travel times between stadiums in the history of the competition, establishing a local rail network in Doha before that time is crucial. Beyond the event, investment in public transport embodies the Qatar National Vision 2030 commitment to sustainable living. Most vital to these plans is the $36bn Doha Metro. Due to open in 2020, the first phase will comprise three lines running over 85 km in length that will connect all but one of the competition’s eight stadiums with downtown Doha. Capable of reaching speeds of 100 km per hour, the metro will be one of the fastest of its kind in the world and has already won awards for its design.
At Legtaifiya station the metro will connect to a second key rail development due in 2020, the Lusail Tram, which saw its first test run in June 2018. The 28-km, three-line network will have 25 stations and facilitate movement around Lusail, which is due to be the location of the 2022 FIFA World Cup final.
High public expenditure on transport has been a boon for local contractors, yet fierce competition for projects has hurt some players – particularly foreign firms, which struggle to compete on price. According to Chakib Nayfe, general manager of Medgulf Construction, this has led foreign firms to wait for large projects. “Foreign companies are now focusing on mega jobs like the metro, liquefied natural gas trains or the airport expansion – you do not find them bidding for small and medium-sized infrastructure jobs because competition is really tough,” he told OBG. For example, under its Local Roads and Drainage Programme, Ashghal awarded QR2.7bn ($741.5m) worth of projects to local contractors in October 2018. This phenomenon has indirectly helped to localise the construction sector, which is being actively encouraged by the government.
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