The Riyadh Public Transit Network Project

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Interview with:
Eng. Alwalid Alekrish
Deputy CEO for Programs and Projects
Riyadh Development Authority

Could you tell us about the Riyadh Development Authority, its history and function linked to public transport?

The Riyadh Development Authority (RDA) was established by the Saudi Council of Ministers in June 1974. It was established to achieve the vision of the King of Saudi Arabia to form a joint authority that takes the responsibility of the comprehensive development of Riyadh City, and serves as a unified command for all metropolitan development efforts by various agencies.

RDA goals include the delivery of comprehensive urban, economic, social and cultural development of Riyadh City, handling all issues relating to environmental management and protection, and providing the city with public services and utilities. One such project is Riyadh’s Public Transit System which commenced five years ago and is nearing completion within the next year. Much of the infrastructure, including tunneling, track laying, bridges, viaducts and stations are at an advanced stage and the project is on schedule.

Over the coming months the project will concentrate efforts on the implementation and operation of the system. The bus network is scheduled to come online within months, followed by the six metro lines.

Continuous staff training is in progress across all levels, from the control command centre teams to individual bus drivers and station attendants. Systems will be tested, passenger flows analysed, and performance optimised.

Could you briefly describe the Riyadh Public Transit Network Project?

The Riyadh Metro is part of the King Abdulaziz Project for Public Transport.

In December 2011, the cabinet approved all phases of an entirely new public transport system in Riyadh (metro & bus), based on studies conducted by RDA to find a solution to the growing traffic congestion problem in the city.

The Riyadh Public Transit Network is being established according to a comprehensive Urban Structural Plan called 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.

With its six lines totalling 176km and 85 metro stations, the Metro network will cover most of the densely populated areas, public facilities, as well as governmental, educational, commercial and medical institutions. The system aims to carry 1.16 million passengers per day during its initial phase, with a peak of 3.6 million per day in ultimate capacity.

The Riyadh Bus network will be the main feeder to the Riyadh Metro system. It will also be the major transportation mode inside the various neighborhoods of the capital, carrying up to 900,000 passengers daily at full capacity. A total of 80 bus routes will cover the city: 3 BRT, 19 Community and 58 Feeder, spread over 1,900km of roads, and serving the population through 3,000 bus terminals, stations and stops. The bus fleet will be made of 842 vehicles, and will be able to provide real-time passenger information.

Why is the Riyadh Metro Project so important?

The project will be of great benefit to Riyadh in terms of improving mobility, minimising traffic, boosting the economy, and reducing the impact on the environment. The Metro and Bus Networks will provide the city with an integrated, citywide public transport system that will meet its existing and future needs.  

Riyadh’s population is booming. As such, the city needs to respond to a population growth from almost 7 million today to 8.3 million by 2030. The Riyadh Public Transit Network will provide all population groups in the capital with a cost-effective way to move around the city, which will increase their productivity and reduce their dependency on private cars. It is an excellent return on investment, with every $1 spent generating $3.4 for the city, and will add 20,000 direct and indirect jobs when fully operational.

You launched calls to appoint operators for the project. At what stage is RDA with the awarding process?

Contracts have been awarded for the Operation & Maintenance (O&M) of the Riyadh Metro to two international consortia – FLOW (Alstom partnered with Ansaldo STS and Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane) and CAMCO (RATP Dev and SAPTCO (Saudi Public Transport Company). FLOW will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of Lines 3,4,5 & 6. CAMCO has won the contract for O&M for Lines 1 & 2. Both consortia are now in the initial mobilisation phase.

The 12-year contract covers worldwide best practices, and global KPIs in urban metro operation and maintenance, namely in the areas of Passenger Services, Facilities Management, Transit System, Health & Safety and security, as well as Local Content.

The contracts, as set by ADA, carry a minimum Saudization target of 45%, as well as a minimum level of 55% for local sourcing in the areas of supplies and services related to the Riyadh Metro operation and on-the-ground logistics support.

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