Shared services: Expanding urban public transport is a government priority

Consumer petrol prices in the Kingdom are the second-cheapest in the world behind Venezuela. Given this and the size of the country (2.15m sq km), it is unsurprising that it also has a strong car culture. As such, the prospects for public transport might seem limited, but the government has a clear commitment to improving public transport in cities as a means of easing congestion and making it easier for citizens to get to work.

RIYADH METRO: Perhaps the best illustration of the government’s intent is happening on the streets of Riyadh. The capital is set for major changes over the next decade with the introduction of a six-line driver-less metro system and a comprehensive bus network to support this. Approved by the Council of Ministers in 2012, the investment in public transport in Riyadh is huge. Spending on the metro system alone will reach $22bn; the scope and timeframe of the plan is ambitious. The Council of Ministers decided that the whole metro network, including 87 air-conditioned stations, should be built in one go. Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) decided to tender for design and build contracts that are effectively turn-key projects (including rolling stock), and tendered a number of packages.

In February 2013 the authority received bids from three consortia: the BACS consortium consisting of Bechtel, Siemens, Almabani General Contractors and Consolidated Contractors Company; the Arriyadh New Mobility (ANM) consortium, led by Ansaldo STS and including Bombardier Transportation, Salini-Impreglio, Larsen & Toubro and Nesma; and the FAST consortium including the Spain’s FCC, Samsung C&T, Alstom, Strukton, Freyssinet Saudi Arabia, Typsa and Setec.

The ADA awarded each consortium one package. The BACS consortium will build the 63.3 km of lines 1 and 2 in a contract worth $9.45bn. The ANM consortium was awarded a $5.21bn contract for the 40.7-km Line 3 and its associated 22 stations. The third package for the 64.6 km and 25 stations of lines 4, 5 and 6 were awarded to the FAST consortium for $7.82bn. Alstom, which was awarded a $1.7bn share in the contract, will supply 69 two-car train sets. The commencement date for these contracts was set at October 30, 2013, and they are due to run for 60 months, which means the system should be completed by end-2018.

CHALLENGES: There will be substantial challenges to implementing a project of this size on time and on budget. This will include managing traffic flows in the city as work gets under way, the communication between the different consortia on coordinating their works, and the difficulty of building a labour force to sustain the peak of construction. The contracted companies have told OBG that this project has been given additional support and coordination from government bodies because of its strategic importance. Hassan Al Mosa, assistant director of transport planning at ADA, told OBG in February 2014, “The consortia are all on schedule so far, but it is when it comes to real implementation that we will have the challenges.”

Meanwhile, ADA is preparing the search for an operator for the metro and is currently developing a strategy to help determine such things as whether to choose one operator or several across the system. ADA is expecting to tender for an operator in early 2015 and has stated that it will need one in place at least two years before revenue operations begin.

SUPPORTING WORKS: The metro system will also be supported by an extensive bus system, including more than 90 km of bus rapid transit (BRT), a 55-km circulation line, 405 km of community lines, and a feeder network. There will also be 25 park-and-ride sites.

This network has been packaged into a number of contracts, including contracts for 10-year procurement, operation and maintenance; road enhancement and station construction; automated vehicle monitoring and real-time passenger information; and automation fare collection. In February 2014 a joint venture between Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens and the Saudi Public Transport Company was recommended for the 10-year, $2bn contract to operate and maintain the buses, although this is awaiting ratification. The station construction for the BRT network was also tendered in February 2014, and ADA hoped to sign an operator for the network in 2014. (Valium online) ADA forecasts that the first phase of the network will be running by mid-2016, with phase two completed six months after that and phase three another six months later.

INCENTIVISATION: This massive infrastructure drive has the potential to dramatically alter the dynamics of the capital. The metro network will have a capacity of 1.16m passengers per day initially, rising to 3.6m with the addition of rolling stock. The bus network will have an initial capacity of 500,000 passengers per day, growing to a maximum of 900,000 daily passengers. However, one of the key issues will be convincing locals to get out of their cars and use the system. “The city is car-oriented, and we will have a challenge to reach our target,” said Al Mosa. ADA aims to have public transport account for 20% of all city traffic. There are currently 7.4m daily trips by car in Riyadh, and without any public transport measures this is projected to increase to 15m by 2030. Public transport currently only accounts for 2% of the daily trips, with private car usage accounting for 89% and the remainder consisting of taxis and group transport. ADA, therefore, faces an uphill battle to reach its goal, and it is currently looking at measures such as congestion charges, parking fees and tolls.

ADA will determine the fare structure for the public transport network in coordination with different parties. If the national rail network sets a precedent, operator contracts are unlikely to be awarded on a purely revenue model given the lack of passenger history to assess investment risk and the likely requirements for subsidised fares in the capital to facilitate use.

OTHER CITIES: The public transport projects in Riyadh are likely to be a model for similar projects in other major cities. The government has set its sights on metros in Jeddah, Makkah, Medina and Dammam. Construction on the system in Jeddah is expected to begin in 2015. The Jeddah Metro Company announced in February 2014 that the design phase for the metro has already commenced. The company will roll out a 293-km metro, tram and commuter rail network, integrated with a 750-km bus system and a ferry and taxi network, by 2020. The metro alone is expected to cost $9.3bn.

In Makkah the first line of its mass transit scheme, constructed by China Railway Construction Corp, was opened in 2010. A further four lines with 180 km of track and 88 stations are set to be finished by 2023.

Dammam announced plans for a SR60bn ($15.96bn) scheme involving metro and bus. The metro will include two lines, one running from Tarout Island via Qatif, Dammam and Dhahran to the King Fahd Causeway, and the second linking King Fahd Road with the airport.

Such state-led infrastructure projects are a big step forward. They are likely to change the face of the Kingdom’s cities over the next decade, reducing travel times, supporting economic growth and facilitating job opportunities for citizens without access to a car or driver.