On the Right Track
With Qatar being chosen to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and guided by the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV2030), it is working overtime to create a wide range of infrastructure- and transport-related projects to cope with upcoming demand, some of which truly embody the term megaproject. According to the US-Qatar Business Council, the Arabian Gulf country plans to spend over $200 billion on infrastructure projects between now and 2022, which includes roads, bridges, highways, railways, ports, and consultancy services, among others. The effects are being felt throughout the economy. The Minister of Finance, HE Ali Sharif Al Emadi, reports that $24.03 billion had been allocated in 2015 for key transport projects, an increase of 16% from 2013-14, when the figure was $20.57 billion. Spending on transportation projects is also expected to reach $182.35 billion by 2019. Qatar’s real estate, construction, and finance sectors are also experiencing a massive boost as businesses work overtime to utilize the allocated infrastructure investment funds. The government has allocated 40% of its budget through 2016 to infrastructure projects, including $11 billion on the next phase of Hamad International Airport (HIA), $5.5 billion on the New Doha Deep Water seaport, and $12.36 billion on improving existing and creating new road networks. Ashghal, the Qatari Public Works Authority, is one of the key national agencies supervising infrastructure development and will oversee roads and transport-related building projects, as well as a number of other projects. Ashghal has been driving an unprecedented transport infrastructure boom in the last few years to help Qatar achieve its QNV2030 targets, in which Qatar seeks to transform itself into a world-class business, sports, and tourism hub. Originally looking to 2030, Ashghal’s timetable to successfully complete these world-class megaprojects has been accelerated by Qatar being awarded host for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In order to handle this rate of development within Qatar, Ashghal is developing a fully integrated multimodal transportation system in line with the QNV2030 and Qatar National Development Strategy goals. The government has made investment in the country’s transport infrastructure a top priority for the next decade with $70 billion worth of projects already planned; the sector will be the largest source of project opportunities. One of the main developments in the sector is the expansion of HIA. By 2020, the expansion will double the size of the main terminal. The HIA will also connect to Doha Metro and will host a new 45,000sqm passenger amenity area that will feature a museum, a spa, children’s play area, a garden, a library, a gym, as well as outdoor dining and lounges. The expansion is expected to cost around $8 billion, which is under the allocated budget. HIA currently has a capacity of 30 million passengers annually, but to cope with the demands of the World Cup this needs to be increased somewhat. Demand during the event on the airport is expected to be around 86,000 passengers a day, not including normal travel. The new expansion of the airport will form the heart of the airport and is expected to handle 60% of passenger traffic. HIA opened in 2014 and the 471,000sqm terminal has 33 gates as well as a number of remote gates on the tarmac. The total planned expansion will take the size of the airport over 1 million sqm and nearly double the amount of gates in the terminals to 61 with 14 remote gates. There will also be additional check-in counters, baggage carousels, and drop-off areas. The design work is being carried by Foster + Partners, which is also designing the Lusail World Cup Stadium. Tenders for the airport are expected to be released in 1H2016
Qatar is allocating approximately $12.5 billion to improving and creating road networks in the country by 2016. Over 29 road projects have been announced for Qatar in 2015. Qatar’s ongoing major road projects include: Lusail Expressway Package 2, Orbital Highway and Truck Road, the Ras Laffan to Mesaieed Expressway, the Dukhan Highway, Doha Bay Crossing, Road Interchanges for the Al Khor Expressway, and Doha Expressway. This integrated roads plan will provide transportation links across Qatar connecting key cities and towns with high-quality national freeways and urban arterial routes. This national Expressway Program will deliver over 900km of new roads and an array of underpasses, flyovers, and multi-level interchanges to cut down on traffic and deliver improved journey times. It is a seven-year program (2010-2017) delivering 240 major interchanges ranging from conventional traffic lights, to four level interchanges with tunnels and flyovers with more than 30 major projects to be delivered. There are new and upgraded freeways, expressways, and arterial roads across Qatar.
Another related roads megaproject that has drawn great attention is The Sharq Crossing—also known as the Doha Bay Crossing—a 12km series of underwater tunnels and bridges connecting the new Hamad International Airport, Katara Cultural Village, and the West Bay financial district in Qatar. When completed in 2015 the project will see the delivery of three bridges known as West Bay Bridge, Cultural City Bridge, and the Al Sharq Bridge, all designed by world-famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and linked by 8km of undersea tunnels. The Sharq Crossing will be capable of handling an estimated 6,000 vehicles per hour.
The Qatar-Bahrain causeway, referred to as the Qatar Bahrain Friendship Bridge, is another project that hopes to increase the country’s connectivity with its neighbors, and was approved in 2005. Estimated funds of $4.5 billion were raised to implement the project, which has suffered repeated delays. The causeway is expected to be used by 4,000 cars daily in the first year and up to 5,000 cars within the following year. The project has undergone changes since its conception including plans for two new railway tracks running alongside the bridge. It is hoped work will continue soon.
The Qatar Rail Development Program (QRDP) envisions the development of a long-distance passenger and freight rail network to connect major centers of population and industry in Qatar and to form part of the planned GCC railway network, linking the six countries of the bloc. The 2,177km railway project has faced numerous delays and with the current slump in oil prices a completion date is undecided. However, in March 2016 GCC transport ministers will be meeting up in Riyadh to discuss the project with its completion date the top of the agenda. It is unlikely the 2018 deadline will be met due to the difficulty in getting the six countries to coordinate operations. One of the main points of the meeting will be to reaffirm each countries’ commitment to the project during a time of reduced oil revenues. The GCC railway is not a cheap project and Oman has been discussing its priorities when it comes to large-scale rail projects. Another stumbling block is the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway, which has experienced numerous delays and is currently on hold. The QRDP long distance rail network also coincides with the national transportation objectives and requirements laid out in the Qatar National Development Framework (QNDF) and QNV2030 planning frameworks. These developments will stimulate the domestic economy and create substantial opportunities for both Qatari and foreign businesses.
A more local, but equally important project, is the Doha Metro. Work is well underway on the project with over 50% of the 113km tunnels complete. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2019 with Phase I complete in 2018. The first phase will consist of 37 station with Phase II a further 60 stations. Qatar Rail recently floated tenders for the construction of 12 stations, which it expects to award in the near future. In 2013, Qatar Rail issued four contracts totaling $8.2 billion to design and build the rail way lines and Phase I of the project. The Metro will consist of four lines in when fully complete totaling over 200km in length. During Phase I, Red Line North, Red Line South, and the Green Line are under construction and will connect Education City, West Bay, Lusail, HIA, and the Qatar International Convention Center, as well as the stadiums for the World Cup. The combined Doha metro extensions, when added to the planned rail projects, will be worth an estimated $29 billion.
In 2007, HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani announced plans for one of the largest port developments in the world. Located to the south of Doha, the New Port Project (NPP) ties in with many of the country’s targets and goals and will cost an estimated $7.4 billion. It will include a new port, a new base for the Qatari Navy, and an affiliated economic zone will occupy a 26sqkm area. While the media has been focused on some of the more glamorous projects, the NPP is probably one of the largest. The NPP will be located next to the Mesaieed Industrial City, allowing access to numerous clients as well as a major shipping channel. While the Industrial City has a harbor already, it serves more as a domestic terminal than an international port. The NPP will significantly increase the country’s port capacity and, due to its location out of the city, will be able to expand if the need arise. The NPP will have a total capacity of 6 million TEUs annually, as well as the ability to handle 1.7 million tons of general cargo, 1 million tons of grain in a specially built facility, 500,000 vehicles, and livestock. It will also host the Qatar Economic Zone 3 Canal, which is a self-contained development with industrial and residential facilities adjacent to the port.