Qatar’s rail net­work on the fast track

The long-dis­tance pas­sen­ger and freight rail trans­porta­tion sys­tem in Qatar, part of the wider GCC rail net­work cur­rently un­der de­vel­op­ment, is mov­ing closer to pulling out of the sta­tion.

Qatar Today - - AFFAIRS > VIEWPOINT - BY OLIVER CORNOCK The au­thor is the Re­gional Editor of Ox­ford Busi­ness Group.

In June, Qatar Rail – the state agency charged with de­vel­op­ing the coun­try's rail­way net­work – an­nounced it would be is­su­ing ten­ders for the ini­tial stage of con­struc­tion on the long-dis­tance rail be­fore the end of this year, with con­struc­tion set to be­gin in 2016.

Mea­sur­ing progress

When fully com­pleted in 2030, the planned four phases of the net­work will cover a dis­tance of 400 km with links to Bahrain and Saudi Ara­bia, as well as freight and pas­sen­ger lines to Qatar's main pop­u­la­tion and eco­nomic cen­tres, in­clud­ing Ras Laf­fan In­dus­trial City, Dukhan and Al Shamal.

The ini­tial phase of de­vel­op­ment will con­nect Doha to the in­dus­trial and lo­gis­tics hub of Me­saieed and the new Ha­mad Port con­tainer ter­mi­nal, be­fore con­tin­u­ing on to the Saudi Ara­bian bor­der, with 151 km of track and in­fra­struc­ture to be built. Upon com­ple­tion, the rail­way will be able to ac­com­mo­date pas­sen­ger train speeds of 200 km per hour (kph) and freight speeds of 120 kph.

LRT mov­ing ahead

Other cru­cial trans­port projects in the coun­try also re­main on track. Work on the 38.5 km Lu­sail light rail transit sys­tem (LRT) is steadily pro­gress­ing. The sys­tem is plan­ning to link Doha with the new satel­lite city of Lu­sail, north of the cap­i­tal, in ad­di­tion to trans­port­ing pas­sen­gers within Lu­sail.

The fi­nal award for the com­ple­tion of the LRT was granted to a QDVC-Al­stom joint ven­ture in June 2014. “Phase 2C3 of the LRT, the south­ern por­tion, is ex­pected to be com­pleted and op­er­a­tional in Fe­bru­ary 2019, while Phase 2C, the north­ern por­tion, is set to be com­pleted in Fe­bru­ary 2020,” Yan­ick Gar­il­lon, CEO of QDVC, the Qatar-

based con­tract­ing and con­struc­tion com­pany lead­ing the con­sor­tium for the Doha Metro Red Line- South, told OBG.

Metro on track

Mean­while, plans for Qatar's metro sys­tem are also mov­ing ahead, with phase 1 of the Doha Metro pro­ject to in­clude the three lines cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion, as well as 37 sta­tions and sup­port­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

De­spite the pro­ject's mas­sive scale, it is run­ning on sched­ule, Marc Krouse, fi­nan­cial man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of PORR Bau (Doha Branch), told OBG. PORR Bau, a mem­ber of the con­sor­tium that also in­cludes Saudi Bin­ladin Group and HBK Con­tract­ing, is re­spon­si­ble for con­struct­ing Doha Metro's 33.3 km Green Line Un­der­ground, start­ing in Msheireb in the east of the city, run­ning through Ed­u­ca­tion City and con­tin­u­ing west to Doha West In­ter­na­tional.

“This is the largest metro pro­ject of its kind ever un­der­taken in the world,” Krouse told OBG. “There are 21 tun­nel-bor­ing ma­chines (TBMs) run­ning at one time in the coun­try, so the lo­gis­tics of the en­tire op­er­a­tion are very com­pli­cated and re­quire care­ful plan­ning to en­sure ev­ery­thing is com­pleted on time.”

In June Qatar Rail of­fi­cially an­nounced that all TBMs were on track to com­plete the tun­nelling phase by 2017, and that 30 km or around 25% of the un­der­ground tun­nels had been com­pleted.

8.3 km of the 32 km of un­der­ground tun­nels had been tun­nelled as of June 30, ac­cord­ing to Gar­il­lon: “We are ac­tu­ally ahead of sched­ule and an­tic­i­pate fin­ish­ing be­fore our han­dover date.”

PORR Bau's Krouse shared this pos­i­tive out­look for the Green Line. “Of the 33.3 km of tun­nels re­quired for the Green Line, we have tun­nelled 12.7 km as of June 30. We are on track to meet our han­dover date,” he told OBG.

Costs to con­sider

The Doha Metro pro­ject has not been with­out chal­lenges. Flood­ing has been an ob­sta­cle and has caused de­lays in some ar­eas. Ris­ing wa­ter ta­bles caused by leaks from older in­fra­struc­ture and sea­wa­ter in­tru­sion have slowed tun­nelling and dam­aged some con­struc­tion equip­ment. Though of­fi­cials have said the flood­ing will not de­lay com­ple­tion, de­ploy­ing de­wa­ter­ing tech­nol­ogy and re­pair­ing the TBMs will likely add to pro­ject costs.

Greater de­mand for build­ing ma­te­ri­als – most of which have to be im­ported – and skilled work­ers, ex­ac­er­bated by grow­ing in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity across the re­gion, could also raise costs.

Ma­te­ri­als in­fla­tion is ex­pected to reach 3% this year, Nick Smith, a part­ner at en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tancy Arcadis, told the lo­cal press in June. This could rise fur­ther in the com­ing years as con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity on ma­jor projects, in­clud­ing the longdis­tance rail­way and in­fra­struc­ture re­lated to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, ramps up.

How­ever, lower oil prices and weaker de­mand in other ma­jor mar­kets – par­tic­u­larly China, where there has been a scal­ing back in build­ing ac­tiv­ity – have led to lower com­mod­ity prices for steel and other ma­te­ri­als. This could help keep con­struc­tion in­fla­tion in check, at least in the near term

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