EVENT RE­VIEW

Mid­dle East Rail 2018 dis­cusses GCC Rail­way Net­work, tech­nol­ogy trends, and con­veys a gen­eral at­ti­tude of pos­i­tiv­ity for the global rail in­dus­try

LogisticsNews Middle East - - CONTENTS - By Me­hak Sri­vas­tava

High­lights from Mid­dle East Rail 2018

The 12th edi­tion of Mid­dle East Rail saw over 290 re­gional and in­ter­na­tional rail­way op­er­a­tors, sup­pli­ers, and con­trac­tors come to­gether to dis­cuss the lat­est in­dus­try trends and show­case their best so­lu­tions and in­no­va­tions. The ex­hi­bi­tion took place be­tween March 12 – 13, 2018, at the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre.

The event was held un­der the pa­tron­age of HH Sheikh Man­sour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, Min­is­ter of Pres­i­den­tial Af­fairs, UAE, in part­ner­ship with the Min­istry of In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment and the Fed­eral Trans­port Au­thor­ity – Land and Mar­itime.

Dur­ing his keynote speech, Sheikh Man­sour said that the UAE had es­tab­lished it­self as a global player in the trans­port in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor – a sec­tor that plays an im­por­tant role in any na­tion’s progress. He also ex­pressed his plea­sure at the growth in the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants at this year’s event, as well as the keen in­ter­est shown by key de­ci­sion-mak­ers in the rail­way in­dus­try.

He then high­lighted the fact that the UAE gov­ern­ment had de­vel­oped a clear vi­sion, as well as a care­fully-planned strat­egy, to play a lead­er­ship role in the field of rail trans­port in­fra­struc­ture. This will be achieved through re­gional and in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions, de­vel­op­ing and re-shap­ing poli­cies, and en­act­ing laws to pro­mote ef­fi­ciency as well as safety in this vi­tal sec­tor, he said.

The pre­vi­ous edi­tion of Mid­dle East Rail saw key fo­cus on the fi­nanc­ing op­tions for GCC Rail­way, a $200bn po­ten­tial megapro­ject con­nect­ing the Gulf states of Saudi Ara­bia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. Ap­proved by the states in 2009, the orig­i­nal com­ple­tion date for the rail net­work was pledged as 2018; Saudi Ara­bia was the only coun­try at the mo­ment to have any rail in­fra­struc­ture. The dead­line was later pushed to 2021. UAE com­pleted the 264km stage one of its Eti­had Rail net­work, con­nect­ing the Shah-hab­shan-ruwais route, in 2014.

How­ever, by 2016, work had slowed down or come to a com­plete halt in Oman, UAE, and Qatar. In Jan­uary 2016, Eti­had Rail of­fi­cially an­nounced that it had sus­pended ten­der­ing for phase two of the na­tional rail net­work. This stage in­volved the con­struc­tion of a 628km-line from Gh­weifat on the Saudi bor­der to the Omani fron­tier near Al Ain, with links to the UAE’S three prin­ci­pal ports—khal­ifa, Jebel Ali, and Mus­safah.

UAE’S Min­is­ter for In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment Dr Ab­dul­lah Bel­haif Al Nuaimi, com­mented on the halt­ing of phase two, say­ing that it “was log­i­cal be­cause you sim­ply can­not build your part and wait for oth­ers to start”.

In Fe­bru­ary 2018, the UAE Cabi­net ap­proved a new Fed­eral Rail­way Law that pro­vides a reg­u­la­tory frame­work for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of rail­ways. The new law is ex­pected to pave the way for pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion in rail­way projects in the emi­rates. Both UAE and Oman are cur­rently fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing their in­ter­nal rail net­works.

Dr Ab­dul­lah Salem al-kathiri, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Fed­eral Au­thor­ity for Trans­port Land and Marine an­nounced at a press con­fer­ence at the Mid­dle East Rail 2018 that all six GCC coun­tries are mov­ing for­ward with na­tional rail plans which in­clude links to neigh­bour­ing states.

In at­ten­dance at the 2018 show were a num­ber of key ex­hibitors, in­clud­ing In­dian Rail­ways (who show­cased $140bn worth of cur­rent and fu­ture rail projects that the In­dian gov­ern­ment is build­ing to up­grade coun­try’s ur­ban trans­porta­tion net­work), Serco, Al­stom, Greenbrier Com­pa­nies, Siemens, CREC, CRRC, AE­COM, Progress Rail, and De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional Trade UK.

The provider of the Dubai Tram and the leader of the Ex­polink con­sor­tium for Route 2020 project of the Red Line ex­ten­sion of Dubai Metro, Al­stom, high­lighted eight new tech­nolo­gies with the power to trans­form mo­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East now – or in the very near fu­ture.

Among the so­lu­tions Al­stom pre­sented on its booth, are Al­stom’s Ur­ban In­te­grated so­lu­tions; Ci­tadis Range; Mas­tria, the or­ches­tra­tion of all pub­lic trans­port modes from rail to road; Ecode­sign: sus­tain­abil­ity in mo­bil­ity from man­u­fac­tur­ing to re­cy­cling; Ap­tis: the premium pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence in­spired from the tram, Health­hub and more.

Harj Dhali­wal, manag­ing di­rec­tor Mid­dle East & In­dia - Hyper­loop One, dis­cussed the fun­da­men­tals of the hyper­loop tech­nol­ogy, the ul­tra-high-speed ground trans­porta­tion sys­tem pro­posed in 2013 by Elon Musk. The UAE In­no­va­tion Month in Fe­bru­ary 2018 saw the first con­cept model of the Hyper­loop com­muter pod.

“The core com­po­nents of hyper­loop tech­nol­ogy have been around for a long time, nearly five or six decades. What we’re do­ing now is bring­ing to­gether the var­i­ous com­po­nents like vac­uum, lev­i­ta­tion, propul­sion, al­to­gether, en­abling us to cre­ate a brand-new form of trans­port for the 21st cen­tury.”

Hyper­loop tech­nol­ogy, ex­plains Dhali­wal, is a cross-over of dif­fer­ent sec­tors. It learns not just from the rail in­dus­try, but also from aero­space, space, and high-speed rail, bring­ing it all to­gether in a new, con­sol­i­dated form of trans­port, aimed at chang­ing the way trans­port is per­ceived for­ever. Dur­ing the un­veil­ing of the Hyper­loop’s con­cept model in Dubai, Ab­dul Reda Abu Al Has­san, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Rail Plan­ning and Project De­vel­op­ment at RTA, said the project is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional within the next five years. Peo­ple were es­pe­cially ex­cited by the fact that travel time be­tween Dubai and Abu Dhabi could po­ten­tially be cut down to 12 min­utes.

“Why I re­ally en­joy hyper­loop is be­cause ev­ery­body is so ex­cited by it,” re­marks Dhali­wal. “Ev­ery­body wants it. I’ve never worked in an or­gan­i­sa­tion where the pub­lic are will­ing you

I have never seen so much sup­port for a tech­nol­ogy in this sec­tor.” Harj Dhali­wal, Hyper­loop One

to get a project done so fast—and this is com­ing from some­one who’s worked in trans­porta­tion all his life. Most projects tend to have pro­test­ers, ask­ing us to get rid of it. I have never seen so much sup­port for a tech­nol­ogy in this sec­tor.”

Dhali­wal claims it is dif­fi­cult to put a date on when the hyper­loop will pre­cisely be open to the masses, but he be­lieves in seven years from now, from the proof of con­cept (POC) mode, a con­cept fa­cil­ity will be up and run­ning some­where in the world—per­haps even in Dubai.

Early this year, Vir­gin Hyper­loop One founder Richard Bran­son un­veiled plans to im­ple­ment a hyper­loop sys­tem in In­dia, con­nect­ing Pune and Mum­bai, with a goal of cut­ting down the travel time be­tween the two cities to 25 min­utes. “In­dia is an amaz­ing story for us. We’ve es­tab­lished our base here in the Mid­dle East, and we’ll con­tinue to push our growth here. But we’re also keenly look­ing at other ar­eas in the world, and In­dia is a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity area, which we re­ally started to fo­cus on in Q3-Q4 of 2017. We car­ried out our global chal­lenge event, and built off that.

“In July-au­gust on­wards, we started se­ri­ously en­gag­ing with gov­ern­ments and state gov­ern­ments. We started to talk to those states that were prom­i­nent in our global chal­lenge event. We ba­si­cally said—where would you want the hyper­loop? So via that com­pe­ti­tion, we were able to nar­row it down to where we should fo­cus our re­sources.

Dr Ab­dul­lah Bel­haif Al Nuaimi, Min­is­ter for In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment

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