By Colin Foreman www.meed.com
While years behind Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are at last taking public transport schemes seriously.
The past five years have clearly demonstrated that when Dubai builds something, its rivals quickly try to follow with their own schemes. Dubai was the first city to start building super-high-rise towers. Now, Doha, Jeddah, Riyadh, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi are all either building or planning to build their own tall towers.
Metro projects are the latest focus for planners. On 9 September, Dubai Metro opened, and in the months before and after the event, Abu Dhabi and Doha began to try to catch up by announcing their own plans for metros, trams, and light-rail networks.
In May, Abu Dhabi started tendering consultancy contracts for its planned metro and tram systems. In late August, Doha tendered a construction contract for a railway station at its new international airport, and in October, the UAE officially unveiled plans for its inter-emirates rail network – the Union Railway.
Doha has now gone one step further, with Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company revealing it will tender a contract to supply and build a light-rail network serving Lusail, a new town north of Doha, in December.
The project is just part of Qatar’s rail plans. The government is also planning a metro network for central Doha, and a high-speed line running from Mesaieed through Doha and Ras Laffan onto Bahrain across the Qatar-Bahrain causeway.
However, it is important to remember that Abu Dhabi and Doha’s plans are still embryonic. In Dubai, it took more than four years to build the first metro line.
But while Dubai’s rivals are years behind, their new-found focus on developing rail networks shows Abu Dhabi and Doha are at last taking public transport schemes as seriously as other utilities, such as water, sewage and electricity. And about time too.