The first lines of Riyadh’s six-line, 176-km metro network are due to commence operation in the final quarter of 2021.
Work on the $23-billion Riyadh metro project kicked off in April 2014. The Saudi capital city is also developing an integrated city-wide 1,900-km bus network with around 3,000 stops.
The project faced numerous delays and faced huge challenges in delivering such a vast scale of work in a country with no past experience in metro construction, and in Saudi Arabia’s tough environmental conditions.
The Riyadh city strategy includes almost 100 initiatives and projects.
Investments of the Saudi government in these developments reached $220 billion.
The Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC0) is planning to partially launch Riyadh Metro in Q3 2021, following commencement of trial operations and studying its expansion following an increase in the total area, population, and investments in the Saudi capital.
Riyadh is the fortieth largest city economy worldwide and contributes more than 47% of the Kingdom’s non-oil GDP.
The RCRC started to deliver the strategic goals through the public transport and infrastructure projects in the city, as well as other projects, including King Salman Park, and Qiddiya.
Testing is currently underway on two major lines of the 176-km-long Riyadh Metro network featuring 85 stations, with the first lines on course to open in the Saudi capital city next year, according to the International Railway Journal.
Timetable tests on lines 4 and 6, respectively 30 km and 13 km over-ground lines, are being stepped up with a view to handing the lines over to the operator in the second half of 2021.
“We are running in what we call carousel mode with 35 trains to simulate the timetable, the maintenance, and various other areas,” remarked Lindsay Vamplew, project director for the Ramped consortium comprising WSP (previously Louis Berger) and Hill International, which is overseeing package three of the project comprising lines 4, 5 and 6.
“At the same time, we are trying to complete the stations, with building systems the last part of that. We are looking for those two lines to go into system demonstration in roughly May and potentially trial running where we handover to the operator to simulate the network in June or July, with a view to getting those two lines running next year,” noted Vamplew.
Progress is also being made on lines 1, 2, and 3, which are in the final 10-12% of the works to be implemented although slightly behind on rolling stock testing, which is not at the carousel stage yet, according to Carter Rohan, the project director for the RMTC project management consultancy.
Fahad Al Rasheed, president of the Urban20 (U20) and the Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC), said “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.”
Al Rasheed said the metro project was part of the city’s wider expansion plans to increase public transport percentage from 1% to 20%.
Transport sector contribution
COVID-19 has shaken up several industries, and transport was no exception. But the Middle East’s transportation sector has an exciting pipeline of projects underway, especially in rail as well as road and infrastructure
These include the UAE national railway network, Etihad Rail; Cairo Monorail and Cairo Metro, and Riyadh Metro.
Commenting on the pipeline of rail projects within the region, Roger Cruickshank, Senior Director, Transport Strategy, Acuity Lead, of SNC-Lavalin Group told ConstructionWeek Online: “There’s great excitement within the rail sector, despite challenges associated with the pandemic in the past year. Governments have still pushed ahead with these key visionary projects such as Riyadh Metro or UAE’s national railway network, Etihad Rail.”
For his part, Jonathan Spear, Transport Policy and Strategy Advisor, Acuity, of SNC-Lavalin Group says: “The current and planned rail projects will provide a useful economic stimulus to facilitate COVID-recovery, build back better, and support the strengthening of the private sector, and provide a viable alternative to road-based transport or mobility which historically has been the dominant force in this region.”