Since its inception in 2011, government-owned railway company Qatar Rail has operated with a mandate to develop an efficient countrywide public transport system. This goal is guided by the diversification, sustainable development and social progress goals of Qatar National Vision 2030. The creation of a modern public rail network is intended to improve commute times, alleviate motorway traffic, reduce CO emissions, and provide convenient transport connections that will ultimately change the way people live, work and do business in Qatar.
As of early 2022 the national railway system consisted of the Doha Metro and the new Lusail Tram. The latter is a service for affordable and convenient travel within the growing city. Plans for the development of Qatar Rail’s long-distance railway to link the country with the rest of the Gulf are under way, and in December 2021 members of the GCC approved the creation of the Gulf Railways Authority.
In January 2022 the first section of the Lusail Tram – the Orange Line, running for 5.5 km – began operations. The service includes six stations: Marina, Marina Promenade, Yacht Club, Esplanade, Energy City South and Legtaifiya, the last of which serves as a connection station with the Doha Metro. The inauguration of services was an important milestone in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as Lusail City is set to host matches in the tournament. The government has worked to create sustainable transport options for the event since it was awarded hosting rights in 2010.
Lusail Tram riders are able to use their metro fare cards for the tram in an effort to encourage ridership. Once fully complete, the tram will comprise 18 km of track that will serve 15 at-grade and 10 underground stations along four lines, with a capacity of up to 1250 passengers per line per hour in each direction. There will be two interchanges with the Doha Metro, at Lusail and Legtaifiya, to facilitate efficient inter-city travel. The network will connect government offices, commercial centres, residential towers, leisure and sports facilities, marinas and other major attractions throughout Lusail City.
The Lusail Tram has attracted significant interest from foreign contractors. In 2014 Qatar Rail awarded a €2bn contract to the LRTC consortium to supply the turnkey light rail system for Lusail. The consortium was formed by French multinational rolling stock manufacturer Alstom, with a weight of 40% in the venture, and QDVC, a Qatari construction and engineering firm, with the remaining 60% of the agreement. During the first phase Alstom’s main responsibilities were to provide the carriages and oversee the track works, including supplying power and signalling equipment.
At the same time, US-based project management company Hill International was the largest partner in a joint venture (JV) with Italy’s government-owned rail consultancy Italferr and Qatar’s ASTAD engineering and project management consultancy that was awarded a four-year, $41.6m contract to manage the construction of the Lusail Tram system.
The Lusail Tram will be operated and maintained for a duration of 20 years by RKH Qitarat, a JV formed by Qatar’s Hamad Group (51%), and French transit operators Keolis and RATP Dev (49%), which was selected in 2017 on behalf of Qatar Rail.
The tramway incorporates numerous features that are intended to promote sustainability, accessibility and passenger comfort. Each 32-metre carriage is composed of five modules, and the vehicles have low floors to enable easy access. Route information and security systems are available at transit stations and on board the trams, which are equipped with a full electrical braking system and LED lighting.
The Lusail Tram is designed to be both environmentally and user friendly, with the authorities aiming to offer a greener and more efficient transport option than private automobiles. Indeed, Qatar Rail created the tram network in a manner that ensured minimum greenhouse gas emissions. The carriages can accommodate up to 209 passengers across two classes, standard and family. The fleet consists of 28 Citadis X05 light rail vehicles (LRVs) manufactured by Alstom. According to the French firm, the LRVs are 98% recyclable and are designed to run at a maximum speed of 60 km per hour.
Sustainable development is an important criterion in the design of Lusail City as a whole, a smart city that is being built in multiple phases. Once complete, it will be able to host 200,000 residents and an additional 250,000 daily visitors. The tramway will be well connected to Doha and the wider area to facilitate intra- and inter-city travel.
By undertaking public transport projects, the authorities are working towards the goal of establishing diverse mobility options that decrease the public’s dependence on private automobiles. According to Qatar Rail’s 2017 annual report, the first phase of the Doha Metro alone has the potential to decrease the city’s traffic congestion by 190,000 vehicles per day. This phase has been complete since 2019. As of early 2022 the metro had three main lines covering a total distance of 76 km, with 37 stations and 65 trains.
Taking into account that road transport is responsible for approximately 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the metro and tram projects are expected to contribute to a reduction in air and noise pollution. Qatar Rail’s annual report estimated that the project would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 310 tonnes each day. Indeed, in January 2020 Doha Metro’s Msheireb station received two environmental recognitions: LEED Gold and five stars under the Global Sustainability Assessment System. The awards cited the station’s sustainable site-development strategy, water savings, energy efficiency, building materials selection, and culture and innovation in design.
Lusail’s electric-powered tram, meanwhile, is aligned with Qatar’s vision to develop smart and sustainable cities. The tram is integrated with the city’s park-and-ride strategy, and complemented by cycle lanes and pedestrian routes that enable residents and visitors to reach their destination without private vehicles. Another aspect of Lusail City’s sustainable operation is its advanced district cooling system, which is among the largest in the world and designed to save 65m tonnes of CO annually.
The Lusail Tram is part of the government’s plan to provide a sustainable, multi-modal public transport experience in line with its aim to host a carbon-neutral tournament for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. To this end, Qatar Rail is targeting fast, affordable and environmentally friendly transport services to stadia, recreational areas, hotels and apartments during the event. In addition to the Doha Metro and Lusail Tram, the tram in Education City – owned and operated by Qatar Foundation – will provide access to Education City Stadium.
Lusail will host the final match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the new tram is expected to play a key role in bringing spectators to and from the stadium. After the tournament comes to an end, Qatar will have a green, efficient and integrated urban rail network that is set to have a positive impact on quality of life and economic opportunity.
The construction of new metro and tram stations across Doha and Lusail City has stimulated growth in transit-oriented developments (TODs), which are mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly real estate complexes situated near transit stations. TODs can generate significant economic benefits for new or previously underserved communities, as the influx of commuters provides an opportunity for stimulating non-fare revenue. This encourages players in the private sector to establish various retail, hospitality and entertainment options. By extension, many commuters who depend on urban transport services to reach their places of employment will likely be tempted to invest in homes close to a station, driving demand for residential real estate in the process.
In Lusail City the complete tram system is expected to enhance the new urban centre’s attractiveness as a regional destination for high-tech investment and business, as well as boost its reputation as a desirable place to live with low traffic congestion, and easy access to places of leisure and work. Construction of the tram system has already had a positive impact on direct job creation, with 510 employees working in the operation and maintenance of the network as of early 2022. As the 2022 FIFA World Cup brings global attention to Lusail City, the tram network will be an important component of the tournament’s logistics, as well as play a part in the long-term appeal of the city as a place to visit, live and work.