In which ways will ongoing Qatar Rail projects act as an enabler for future growth of the Qatari economy?
In general, there would be no economic growth without strong transport infrastructure. One of the main factors for any investor, especially international investors, when they are considering investing in any country or sector, is transport infrastructure. So, the quality of transport infrastructure is always a critical decision for international investment and for the local economy as well. Transportation infrastructure affects everyone including both the private and public sectors along with the community as a whole. Historically speaking, if you look at the transport sector in Qatar, the sector's development directly reflects the growth of the country. With this in mind, if you look back about 20 years ago, the population was under 500,000. Now, 20 years later, Qatar has become a multicultural and diverse country with over 2.5 million residents. The traditional mode of transport in Qatar was to use private cars and the road system. But in the longer run this would not be sufficient to cater to the needs of the city, the growth of the economy, the evolution of the commercial system, and so on. With such growth, I would not see it as sustainable to have just a road system and simply widening the road; we cannot make the city only a road-based one. The vision for Qatar Rail is that we have different projects to serve the needs of different sectors. The most important one is the metro, the aim of which is to transfer and carry passengers inside the city and to areas outside of the capital. It is a must-have transport system, which is efficient and very sustainable, and will save a lot of time.
What is your assessment of the viability of Qatar Rail finishing the Doha Metro and Lusail Light Rail projects on time?
We have started to think about this, even at the planning stages for the projects. We decided that it was very important for us to be extremely careful and concise about which companies we would select to carry out the design, building, and contracting. For example, we make sure that we have a prequalification condition that each party has to associate with a local party. Not only that, it is not enough to have a single company with a local company enter a joint venture with, we need to ensure that we have a richness of expertise with the contractors from the international and local company contribution. This dynamic is important because, in a partnership arrangement such as this, the foreign and domestic companies can support each other; the international company bringing the capacity and know-how to the project and the domestic company bringing market expertise. So we started to call or qualify very strong joint ventures with structure that we believe will make them more able to deliver these projects and the program on time. At the same time, we wanted to evaluate the opportunity of having a single joint venture or consortium to do the entire project. However, we decided that this was too big of a risk to take as it leaves such an important project in the hands of a single entity. In the end, we thought of dividing the project into parts and using multiple joint ventures and consortiums so as to ensure the successful delivery of the overall project.
In what ways do you think Qatar really stands to benefit by the completion of the GCC rail network?
The GCC network is to extend over 2,100 km from the north of Kuwait to the south of Oman. When complete, the GCC Rail Network will provide strong infrastructure and connect Qatar to many ports. So you virtually have an axis in the Red Sea and in the Arabian Gulf, and this will have a great impact on freight transport. For imports, for example, you will be able to choose the cheapest way to transport your goods inside of Qatar. And also, during times of emergency, it will provide access to many other ports. The rail freight sector inside the GCC is designed not just to drive the growth of trade but also the enhancement of the road system, because each train will take around 400 trucks off the road. If you run trains every hour, for example, you can imagine that we are taking thousands of trucks off the roads, which then enhances road safety and the maintenance of these roads. And it will also improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized industry players in Qatar and the GCC.