Citizens, residents and visitors to Qatar have seen the impact of the recent investment made in public transport, with the full operation of the Doha Metro offering convenient travel options. In 2019 driverless trains also commenced operations, providing a cheap alternative way of moving around the capital. The Lusail Tram, meanwhile, is expected to open in two phases in 2020, further expanding car-free options. Looking ahead, new initiatives are under way to make travelling around the country safer, cleaner and more cost effective.
Although the Doha Metro’s new trains may be the most obvious symbol of Qatar’s new public transport era, free buses provided by Mowasalat play a crucial role in feeding passengers into the system. As the metro lines came into operation in 2019, new bus services were launched alongside it, with 32 routes now serving stations along the Red Line, four along the Green Line, and two along the Gold Line, with the frequency and routes later expanding to meet demand. Metro express buses provide on-demand services as part of a pilot project at the West Bay QIC and Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre stations. Concurrently, infrastructure for the bus network is also being improved at Al Qassar, Al Wakra, Msheireb and Gharafa.
According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC), a new fleet of electric buses and associated charging equipment is due to be imported and operational during 2020. Testing of the vehicles took place in September 2018, coordinated by the state-owned Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation, Mowasalat and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). “Our strategy comprises several elements, one of which is environmental sustainability. This is directly aligned with the MoTC’s evolving vision, which is why we have been investing in electric vehicles and plan for 20% of our fleet to be electric by 2022,” Fahad Saad Al Qahtani, CEO of Mowasalat, told OBG. In March 2019 local media reported that CHEC was considering opening an electric bus manufacturing facility at one of Qatar’s free zones. In December 2019 the Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA) announced a number of new investments, demonstrating that CHEC was not the only company considering Qatar as a base for the manufacture of a new generation of vehicles. QFZA announced seven new tenants for its free zones, including Gaussin of France, which specialises in electric and autonomous vehicles; France-based multinational Thales, which has divisions devoted to digital and electronic systems; Inventus Power of the US, an expert in batteries and wiring; China’s Unistrong, which specialises in mobility and navigation; and Germany’s automotive giant Volkswagen.
In December 2019 Volkswagen and the Qatar Investment Authority announced they were working together to pioneer autonomous, electric public transport in an initiative dubbed Project Qatar Mobility. A fleet of 35 Volkswagen ID Buzz autonomous vehicles will each carry up to four passengers on semi-fixed routes in the West Bay area, while 10 specially equipped Scania buses will pick up larger groups. Closed testing of the shuttles will start in 2020, followed by trials in 2021, with the project due to go live by the end of 2022. The system will be supported by the Germany-developed ride-hailing app MOIA, with vehicles operating using autonomous intelligent driving technology.
Park & Ride
The MoTC is responding to the popularity of the Doha Metro by making it easier for people to access the service. In January 2020 two new free park-and-ride facilities with 700 spaces were opened to serve the Al Wakrah and Al Qassar metro stations. Meanwhile, Doha Metro planners have also been working to improve the walk to the stations. “We surveyed approximately 190 km of footpaths in a radius of 400 metres around our stations, and we identified about 2000 small obstacles or issues that have either been rectified or will be addressed soon,” Raimund Hanauer, the transport planning director of Qatar Rail, told OBG.