Connecting Riyadh to the future

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Without wanting to state the obvious, there is currently a proliferation of mega public transport projects within the Middle East. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is no exception, with a 6-line metro and city-wide bus network that will make one of the biggest impacts to a city ever imagined. Read on to find out why.

For most developed cities around the world, public transit system planners are guided by the existing urban landscape and commuter demand. When Riyadh decided to go ahead with its own system, the planners took a more holistic approach.

Connecting to a grand city plan

The Riyadh Public Transit System has been planned from the beginning to connect future developments within the city as part of MEDSTAR 2030, The Metropolitan Development Strategy for Riyadh. MEDSTAR 2030 was adopted to ensure safe, reliable and efficient mobility and access for residents of Riyadh and to contribute to guiding anticipated urban and economic growth.

As a result, the construction of Riyadh’s new Metro and Bus network will re-engineer the city and renew its infrastructure. In addition, it will contribute to its urban enhancement through newly developed sidewalks, street furniture, bike paths and green areas.

The Urban Structural Plan for Riyadh, at the heart of MEDSTAR 2030, shows how the city is to be designed as a transit-oriented city with high density development along the major city arteries – north-south and east-west. This will ensure high travel demand supported by transit operations. We believe this is unique in city-planning (typically demand already exists) and is a fundamental requirement to drive demand for high-capacity public transport across the city.

An example of this is the five metro stations that will serve visitors to the planned King Salman Park, a future development at the heart of Riyadh that will include a natural park, residential and leisure facilities in an area four times the area of Central Park in New York City.

That’s not to say that extensive travel forecast models and analysis of existing population densities were not carried out. Nor that connecting major facilities and attractions were not considered, such as existing hospitals, universities, government complexes, or commercial and recreational amenities.

However, a lot of the planning has been driven by an expectation that future urban development will supply demand in the future. Riyadh’s population is projected to increase from 6.9 million today to 8.3 million by 2030.

Eco-friendly and sustainable aspects

The transit system will dramatically lower the number of car journeys within the city, reducing fuel consumption and limiting the environmental impact of vehicle emissions.

A ‘first-to-last mile’ focus will also help to reduce car ownership within the city. This customer-centric approach takes into consideration the complete journey from the citizen’s front door to final destination and expands the reach of the service beyond the routes and tracks of the network.

Persuading a citizen to leave their car at home, or, better still, to stop using it altogether, is never an easy task. To encourage people to use the network, a total of 25 Park & Ride facilities are planned along the lines.

In terms of construction the LEED framework has been adopted to ensure that the public transit system, including all buildings, are environmentally-focused, highly efficient and cost-saving. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Underlying this top layer is a drive to adopt the very latest in sustainable technologies, materials, construction methods and methodologies and there is a real understanding that achieving environmental and sustainable objectives requires clear oversight in management, implementation and maintenance.

Putting the latest technology into operation

The Riyadh Metro is state of the art. The project will have 190 trainsets, with the network designed to accommodate up to 338 trains when needed. Metro trains are driverless and designed to run on standard-gauge tracks.

The trains have been designed with the region’s climate in mind. One such feature is a more powerful air conditioning system, capable of delivering sufficient cooling capacity, even in extreme heat. Another feature is additional protection of the bogies, traction drive, brakes and doors to operate in Riyadh’s harsh weather conditions.

Rolling stock is made of up to 98% recyclable materials, and the braking system regenerates energy feeding back to the medium voltage network.

The Traffic Control Center (TCC) is designed to help deliver a world-class customer service experience for the public transport system and will be the central point for customer contact. It will coordinate the whole transport network using Intelligent Transport Systems.

These are but a few of the many innovations and cutting-edge technology, materials and processes adopted in this completely integrated transit system.

Once up and running, Riyadh’s Public Transit System will become the pillar of the capital’s transformation, the effects of which will benefit many generations to come. Connecting major new projects throughout the metropolis, serving a population expected to reach 8.3 million by 2030, and helping to transform Riyadh into a vibrant and exciting future city.

Riyadh is on the move.

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