Riyadh Metro on schedule, to start operation in 2019

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The Riyadh metro project, one of the world’s largest urban transport ventures, aims to lift up to 3 million commuters off the road to relieve traffic congestion, officials from the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh announced at a press conference at Alstom’s manufacturing facilities in Krakow, Poland.

“We are on schedule. We reached 48 percent completion and we believe the metro will start operating by early 2019 with no delay,” said Khalid Alhazani, director of the architectural project program and public affairs at Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA).

The Riyadh metro is the world’s largest turnkey metro project and cost $23 billion to develop six lines including 85 stations expanding over the city with 176 km. The turnkey system approach entails complete system capability, including signaling, electrification, trackwork and maintenance services.

The first 2-car trainset was shipped in January and the second one will arrive in Riyadh this month.

Riyadh MetroAlstom is one of three metro suppliers developing the project and is currently providing its integrated metro system for three out of six lines since 2014.

Riyadh’s residents and visitors will not need a car, says Alhazani. The metro along with the 24-line bus network under the King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport aims to meet the demands of the growing population which is estimated to increase from 6 million to over 8 million residents by 2030.

Currently, about 9 million trips are made daily in the city of Riyadh causing congestion and air pollution. The new public transportation system seeks to reduce car trips by 803 million each year.

It will save more than 620 liters of fuel and more than $185 million worth of air pollution cost annually.

Alhazani says, “We are visiting retail outlets, offices and homes to introduce the project and tell them about the detours during construction. People appreciate it because they understand that this project will improve their lives for the future.”

Inviting people to use public transportation is challenging, he adds. “This is the first metro project in the Kingdom; people in Riyadh don’t have experience in public transportation.”

“It will take time for people to get used to public transportation,” he says. “We planned everything in detail to make it easier for them to use.”

Walkways will be designed along the metro lines with trees and street furniture. 25 car parks will be built where people can use their cars to reach the nearest station.

The 2-car trainsets feature first class, families and singles sections to encourage all segments of society to ride the metro.

The metro trains are 100 percent motorized and driverless and are designed to run at a top speed of 90 km per hour.

Alstom is supplying 69 metropolis aluminum automated 2-car trainsets, its Urbalis driverless solution, telecommunications, and infrastructure for the lines 4, 5 and 6.

Asked about the benefits of driverless cars, metro product director Pierre Delpierre said the system can be accelerated much easier than calling additional drivers that will take hours especially in cases of rain or storms. In addition to being ecofriendly to the environment, they also shorten the distance and time between trains in which movement can be programmed.

Riyadh is one of the cities that does not have an existing public transport system. “In such cases, turnkey solutions are the best approach to propose a product, plan, lines, and dimensions,” he says.

Certain features make for an enhanced passenger experience, according to Samir Karroum, Middle East and Africa vice president of systems and infrastructure at Alstom.

Platform screen doors make for more safety and fluidity, he explains.

The Riyadh metro will feature a powerful air conditioning system adaptable to extreme heat.

For easier orientation, the advanced passenger information system delivers real time information to passengers through screens and loudspeakers. The interior design of the trains include high comfort seating with elements of traditional architecture inspired by the region designed by award-winning designers.

This article was first published on Feb. 16, 2017 in Saudi Gazette.

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