Qatar is set for big things: that much is well known. What is less well known is that the nation is undertaking a mammoth project unrivalled
before in the history of the Middle East: building a futuristic rail network from the ground up that will define what Qatar looks like for
decades to come. It is all in the hands of Qatar Rail.
Much hinges on Qatar’s National Development Strategy and its smooth
implementation. With an economy growing so fast, staying on top of
new trends is of paramount importance.
Michael Robinson reports
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The minister of Development Planning and Statistics is
charged with overseeing the oil and gas industry to en-
sure that Qatar’s economy is diversified and sustainable,
guaranteeing a more prosperous future for its citizens
in the coming years. Dr Saleh bin Mohammed Al-Nabit
was appointed to head the ministry in June 2013, before
which he was secretary-general for the General Secre-
tariat for Development Planning.
How far advanced is Qatar in terms of
sustainable development for the National
We have been working hard towards making all of
our developments sustainable and will provide future
generations in Qatar with a good future and style of life.
Our main focus is to achieve the goals and aspirations
of the National Vision. We review the NDS to make
sure that there are no gaps or shortcomings and try to
learn from our past experience. We also monitor the
implementation of the NDS with all concerned parties,
including other ministries and institutions and I think
that we are on the right track.
In which areas of sustainable development
does Qatar lead?
Creating sustainable development is always a challenge,
especially if you are talking about countries that are
depleting resources. However, Qatar is leading in terms
of investing in human capital and human development to
become a more efficient and competitive nation.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a
The challenges that we face can be resolved in the
medium term and we are concerned about the overall
population and the composition of the population in
terms of nationality, gender and the mix of families and
singles. We think this should be adjusted to make sure
that we find the right composition that can work for Qatar
in the long term.
These are normal challenges that any government
faces such as finding highly qualified and skilled em-
ployees where we want Qataris to be more involved.
We have some good short term plans to educate and
enhance the capacity of Qatari youngsters.
How do you juggle the conflicting needs of
economic development, human development,
environmental and social development?
The fact is that whenever you increase the exploitation
of hydrocarbons, there are inevitably environmental
issues. We have already put measures in place to limit
harmful chemicals and gases. In the future, air quality
will be better because hydrocarbon production will not
increase and we are using new techniques to reduce and
reuse emissions in different ways.
How comprehensive is the national
I think it is very comprehensive. It is ambitious in terms
of the numbers of projects and programmes. We will be
working on any improvements needed.
A pivotal strategy
of the nation
Saad Ahmed Al Muhannadi, CEO of
Dr Saleh bin Mohammed Al-Nabit, Minister of
Development Planning and Statistics
THE scale of the undertaking being
envisaged by the management team at Qatar
Rail is simply enormous and yet the story
only began in 2011 when the Qatar Rail
Company (QR) was created. The company
is the owner and manager of Qatar’s rail
network and will be responsible for the
operation and maintenance of the entire rail
network and systems.
This involves developing the railway
sector regulatory framework, including
fare policies, standards forsafety,
environment and customer services and
integrating railway services with other
modes of transport. QR is also in charge
of the appointment and oversight of
programme management consultants
to ensure delivery and performance,
enforcement of regulations and standards
on rail services operators and cost
Theman at the helmof Qatar Rail is its
CEO Saad Ahmed Al Muhannadi, whose
academic background is in electrical
engineering, holding a bachelor’s degree
and an MBAfrom the University of Qatar.
Al Muhannadi has more than 15 years of
practical experience in the areas of public
sector services and utilities through his
contributions in many major committees
of Qatar’s Ministry of Electricity &Water.
The scope of the project
It is clear from the outset that this is no
toy railway and no pet project but a major
piece of the future infrastructure of the
fast growing nation that will see it better
connected internally as well as better
connected to its near neighbours. The project
itself has a number of parts.
“Qatar Rail is developing and
implementing three main projects. The
first project is the LRT, the light rail
project, which is to serve Lusail city. We
have completed all the tunnelling and
infrastructure and we are in the final stage
for the fit out, architecture and system.
This project has been awarded to Alstom
and QVDC as a joint venture. We expect
to be in the operational phase by the
end of 2018 for the light rail,” says Al
The Lusail project is a standalone
development within Qatar masterminded
by QDVC to become a waterfront state-
of-the-art city. Located north of Doha,
Lusail is tipped to be one of the largest
and most elaborate developments
undertaken anywhere in the world and
extends over 35 square kilometres of land
and is scheduled to house approximately
200,000 people. It will encompass not
only new residential, commercial and
retail opportunities, but a full array of
community services, complete with
schools, medical facilities, entertainment
and shopping centres.
Al Muhannadi says, “The light rail is
also connected to and integrated with two
metro stations and we are also working on
the greater metro project. The Metro will
connect the cities in Qatar, the north with
the south, the east with the west. Phase 1 is
around 80km with 38 stations across three
lines; the red line, gold line and green line.
We have already awarded seven of the
nine main packages and expect to have
awarded the others by the end of this year.
We are on track and we have completed
15 per cent of the underground work.
The metro has both an underground and
elevated section. It will be underground
within Doha and then elevated outside of
Doha Metro consists of four lines
and will cover the greater Doha area
with connections to town centres and
vital commercial and residential areas
throughout the city. Taken together there
will be around 100 stations built for the
entire Metro Network over a length
of approximately 216 km and these
will include two major stations built
at Msheireb and Education City. The
Msheireb station, located in the centre
of downtown Doha, will be the hub of
the Metro network, being the major
interchange station for three of the four
Another core part of the project
covers both long distance passenger and
freight rail to connect major centres of
population and industries in Qatar and to
form part in the planned Gulf Cooperation
Council railway network linking Qatar,
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates,
Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. Naturally,
long distance passenger rail lines offer a
quick and safe mode of public transport to
communities and their citizens because of
their segregated right-of-way but equally
importantly they help in reducing carbon
and other greenhouse gas emissions.
The long distance rail network is
planned over a length of approximately
510 km and will be developed in distinct
phases to meet commitments made to
GCC and domestic passenger and freight
demands. The network consists of a
freight rail line from Port Mesaieed to
Ras Laffan, a mixed passenger and freight
rail line from Doha to Saudi Arabia, a
high speed passenger rail line from Doha
to Bahrain, a mixed passenger and freight
rail line from Doha to Dukhan and a
mixed passenger and freight rail line from
Doha to AlShamal.
“The third project is the regional
network and connects Qatar with Saudi
Arabia and Bahrain. We will implement
stage one to connect
Qatar with Saudi
Arabia. It is around
145 km of track
and will be used
for both freight and
passengers. We will be announcing the
prequalification for that soon. There is
coordination between Qatar and Saudi
Arabia and other GCC members to
centralise the specifications and have one
schedule, so we are working with our
colleagues from Saudi Arabia. We expect
to have this finished by the end of 2018
and naturally this will integrate with the
progress being made by Saudi Arabia
since there is no point in completing it
until our neighbours are ready. The Metro
should be completed by the end of 2019,”
says Al Muhannadi.
Looking to the future
The construction phase and opening of the
railway will be undertaken on a staggered
basis, with a target date of 2019 for the
first elements of Phase 1. The total value of
the recent contract awards for Phase 1, the
design-and-build phase, is around $11.5bn.
Qatar Rails is leveraging technology
as much as possible in order to be able
to deliver its own unique vision. Al
Muhannadi says, “We are trying to use
the world’s best technology and build a
world class Metro. The temperature and
the atmosphere inside the stations should
be friendly and encourage passengers to
utilise the Metro fully. For signalling and
communications we are using the best
technology to make sure that entry and
exit from the stations is made easy.”
But it is not just about passenger
comfort: it is also about being responsible
toward the environment. “Rail, from an
environmental point of view, allows you
to reduce CO
emissions and because of
this it helps us to contribute to our National
Development Strategy of reduction in car
traffic and reduction of CO
From a human capital point of view it
opens up a number of opportunities both
before and during operations, particularly
for Qataris,” says Al Muhannadi.
From an economic point of view
Qatar Rail has stipulated that any
international contractor should be coupled
with a local contractor to form a JV
and in practice this means that in each
of the development packages awarded
to date, the percentage of local contactor
input ranges from 20 to 50 per cent
and this helps contribute to the local
perspective, the Ministry of Finance is
funding QR but after the rail network goes
live, revenues will come largely from
ticketing, from retail and also from media
since there will be advertising in stations.
There are many stages to go through
yet before the network goes live but
already QR has plans in motion to ease
the transition to full-blown rail operator.
“In the last few months we have been
running workshops and getting all the
staff together to discuss our strategy
and how we shift from a construction
company into an operations company and
this is the main focus. We want to make
sure that we keep QR as a performance
driven organisation to deliver on this
strategy,” says Al Muhannadi.
Now that much of the hard work has
been done, it could be a propitious time
for European companies and contractors
to get involved in the project as a partner
or a supplier. Al Muhannadi concurs
and is positively seeking inputs and
expertise from a wide variety of sources.
He says, “Rail is a newly established
industry for Qatar and there are
opportunities from A-Z in this sector.
We have a lot of consultancies involved
and there is an opportunity from the
UK for consultancy services for long
distance supervision. The two main
parts of the main contracts are civil and
architecture and we are holding awareness
workshops to explain our strategy.
Around 50 per cent of the project is
MEB and architecture branding.
We would also like to see factories
established locally to manufacture
elements of the network that would
require frequent repair, for example
materials like chairs. We would like
to localise this type of procurement.
The idea would be to serve QR but also
other GCC countries’ rail networks.”