Complex Made Simple

Has COVID-19 derailed UAE and Saudi subway projects?

Many of the metro projects in the GCC are perhaps delayed but not derailed as COVID-19 takes its toll on everything including rail developments within cities or those linking adjoining ones

Saudi’s Riyadh Metro project confirmed it will be partially opening before the end of 2020 On July 8, 2020, the 11 bn Dirhams ($3bn) Route 2020 Project was officially inaugurated Abu Dhabi’s Metro Project is slated to finish construction by 2030

Many of the metro projects in the GCC are perhaps delayed but not derailed as COVID-19 takes its toll on everything including rail developments within cities or those linking adjoining ones.

Here we look at major subway projects in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and see if they are rolling right along.

Riyadh Metro

Saudi’s Riyadh Metro project confirmed it will be partially opening before the end of 2020, according to several media reports.

The $22.5 billion metro project is part of the Kingdom’s capital’s expansion plan to turn it into a mega-metropolis. Construction on the 176-kilometer metro began in 2014.

“We anticipate doubling of the city’s population to 15 million as well as doubling of the size of the economy with the implementation of more than 18 giant projects, including Riyadh Metro, Al-Diriyah, Qiddiya, Riyadh Art and Green Riyadh,” Fahad Al-Rasheed, President of Riyadh’s Royal Commission, said in a television appearance.

Riyadh contributes more than 47% of the Kingdom’s non-oil GDP.

He said the government has already committed some $266.6 bn for ongoing and new projects as part of total investments of some $800 bn over the next 10 years.

Upon completion, the rail network will be able to accommodate 400,000 passengers, with 85 metro stations and 176km of tracks.

King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) station is one of the four main stations of Riyadh Metro and touted to be the biggest elevated metro transfer station in the world at 32m high, 42m wide, and 232m long.

Read: Most popular methods of public transport in UAE revealed

Jeddah Metro

At a cost of 60 bn Saudi Riyals ($16bn) Jeddah Metro is being developed by Metro Jeddah Company (MJC) and phase 1 of the project will link the King Abdulaziz International Airport with the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium, central Al-Ruwais, and Al-Khozam.

 The metro network will comprise 74 stations, 160 km of track and four individual routes through the city and bring hundreds of thousands of people within a ten-minute walk of a transport hub.

Completion has been pushed back from 2020 to 2025.

Haramain Railway  

In September 2018, Saudi opened a $7.87bn high-speed Haramain Railway to connect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina with Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City.

The 450km Haramain Railway line is currently working at almost full capacity and expected to transport 60 million passengers a year.

Dubai Metro

The Dubai metro is the world’s longest driver-less and fully automated metro rail network with a length of 74.6 km. It runs along red and green lines. It stops at 49 stations of which 9 are underground. Every station has bus connections, taxi stops, bicycle stands, in addition to electric escalators and lifts.

All stations and trains are provided with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi connectivity. One compartment is reserved for women and children and one for Gold class ticket holders.

Dubai Metro extension

Dubai Metro and Tram will definitely see further extensions in the future, according to Müslüm Yakisan, senior vice-president for Alstom in the Africa, Middle-East Central Asia (AMECA) region.

The French train builder has been at the forefront of both projects in the emirate and is on the verge of completing the extension of Dubai Metro’s red line, which branches out from the Jebel Ali Metro Station to the Expo 2020 Dubai site as part of the Route 2020 expansion project

Atif Rahman, director and partner of Danube Properties claimed earlier this year that the emirate’s metro line would be extended further.

He told media before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that plans to extend the green line, which currently runs 22.5km from Etisalat station to Creek, were close to being finalized, which would see the line expanded from Al Jaddaf to International City.

As well as the extension of the Dubai Metro, Alstom has also been at the front and center of the Riyadh Metro system. The company is part of the FAST consortium awarded the design and construction contract for lines 4, 5, and 6. Alstom also manufactured 69 driverless Metropolis trainsets to run on the new lines.

On July 8, 2020, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, officially inaugurated the 11 bn Dirhams ($3bn) Route 2020 Project, which extends existing metro rail lines in preparation for Expo 2020. 

The automated metro has been built by the Alstom-led ExpoLink consortium, which includes Acciona and Gülermak. Starting from a four-platform interchange with the existing Red Line at Jebel Ali, it includes 11.8 km of elevated alignment and 3.2 km in the tunnel. The Dubai International Airport extension would add a further 3·4 route-km.

According to RTA Chairman & Director General Mattar Al Tayer, the Route 2020 branch has a capacity of 23 000 passengers/h per direction and serves a local population of around 270 000 inhabitants. Ridership is expected to reach 125 000 per day in 2021, and 275 000 by 2030. 

During the Expo 2020 event, the line is expected to carry 35,000 visitors per day on weekdays, and 47,000 per day at weekends, equivalent to 29% of all Expo visitors.

Read: Three most popular rental communities along the Route 2020 metro-line revealed

Abu Dhabi Metro

Abu Dhabi’s Metro Project is slated to finish construction by 2030. The 131 km-long, four-line metro project includes two light rail lines and one bus rapid transit loop linking the city center with Saadiyat Island, Reem Island and the Marina.

The Abu Dhabi Metro is a planned metro line that will be part of a larger transit network for the city of Abu Dhabi, including an 11 km underground metro line, two light rail lines, and a fast bus line.  

The project will transport 30,000 passengers/hour. It is expected to cost 7bn dirhams ($1.9bn).