Interview: Abdulla Rashed Khalaf Al Otaiba
Did the global financial crisis have an effect on the DoT’s Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP)?
ABDULLA RASHED KHALAF AL OTAIBA: The crisis started to affect development in Abu Dhabi in 2009 with a scaling back of residential, retail and commercial development proposals, in light of falling market confidence and revised demand forecasts. With an environment more conducive for growth now emerging, the DoT has received government approval to move from feasibility studies to preliminary engineering for the metro and light rail transit projects. The next stage will be final design and construction. The plans for public transport include the metro, the light rail transit service, high-speed regional train, an improved bus system, demand management measures and road and streetscape improvements.
The integrated public transport network will serve as a flexible tool that can be phased according to growth. Conscientious and incremental implementation can improve mobility, mitigate congestion and foster sustainable growth. The global crisis highlighted a need for economic diversification and the development of non-oil sectors to fully achieve sustainable economic growth. Realising the vital role that the freight sector plays in achieving this goal, the government of Abu Dhabi has focused its efforts on improving the overall performance of the sector.
Can the construction of transport infrastructure in rural areas help facilitate industrial development?
AL OTAIBA: A major effort is being made to stimulate the economy of Al Gharbia and provide employment for the local population. This includes developing industry based around the downstream processing of oil and gas, as well as diversifying the economy to increase the tourism, manufacturing and commercial sectors. The development of several ports will open the region up and promote economic development by reducing shipping costs and better connecting businesses with their consumers. With this improved access, the pace of economic development will be greatly enhanced.
How will multimodal transport help Khalifa Port and the Kizad industrial zone?
AL OTAIBA: Kizad will foster the growth of a series of new industrial sectors, with imports and re-exports a distinguishing feature. The new port’s container and bulk-shipping services will offer efficient multimodal services. Landside high-quality road access will facilitate intra- and inter-emirate transport. In step with the phased development plans of Kizad, the link to the Etihad Rail network will bring additional multimodal options into play. The rail network will serve international containers and other freight movements as Etihad Rail links with the planned wider GCC rail network.
What steps are being taken to enhance the soft infrastructure for land and sea ports?
AL OTAIBA: Abu Dhabi Ports Company has worked closely with its stakeholders in the design of Khalifa Port. Container operations are largely automated, resulting in maximum efficiency and minimised turnaround time. Shippers will therefore operate with more efficacy than those in competitor ports. The significant investment in state-of-the-art freight infrastructure in Abu Dhabi’s ports will facilitate economic growth in the coming years as industrial diversification gathers pace.
Is there a danger of regional overcapacity in ports and airports, given the economic environment?
AL OTAIBA: With the opening of Khalifa Port, sea port capacity will be well beyond immediate demand. If it had not been opened, or had been developed to a smaller scale, the emirate would have been in the much worse position of being short on capacity. Overcapacity during a period of economic recovery is not necessarily a problem. This will put the emirate in a position to capture additional demand as the global economy continues to improve. While other ports in the region are at or near capacity, and thus unable to attract new business, Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure will be ready and able to provide superior efficiency and connectivity.
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