Urban public transport developments in MENA

20 June 2016  •  Author(s): Amr Ramadan, Senior Research and Partnership Officer, UITP MENA Centre for Transport Excellence

Despite political and financial instability, in an effort to combat endemic congestion and environmental challenges, cities across the Middle East and North Africa are still pushing forward with mass public transport projects including BRT, metro, light-rail and cable car transport. Most cities have laid out urban mobility plans to make MENA cities more liveable and improve quality of life for their citizens. North African countries are now setting up powerful governmental authorities to plan and integrate public transport strategies and empowering them with proper financial support.

Urban public transport developments in MENA

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, where private vehicle ownership is traditionally high and increasing rapidly, public transport authorities are aiming to facilitate a modal shift towards public transport. This may be an opportune moment for public transport in the GCC, as governments are now slashing fuel subsidies, many for the first time ever, in parallel with significant investment in public transport infrastructure and expansion projects.

Nowhere in the region is this more evident than in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the local government has made plans for an integrated network of metro, bus and BRT. This started in 2012 when the public transport project for Riyadh was approved (King Abdulaziz public transport project) and mid-2013 marked the official launch of implementation. The project consists of two components: Riyadh Metro and Riyadh Bus networks. Riyadh Metro comprises six metro lines with a total length of 176km, 85 stations and 190 trains. Driverless trains will be used to run this project which the government claims is the biggest public transport project to be constructed all in one go. Riyadh Bus on the other hand will operate a total of 1,000 buses of different types and capacities. According to RATP DEV and SAPTCO, who won the tender to operate the bus network, it will have a fleet of 1,000 vehicles, four Bus Rapid Transit lines, two circular lines, 16 community lines and approximately 70 feeder lines. The bus network will be integrated with the metro network to create a comprehensive integrated public transport system1. Similar plans are being made for bus and rail projects in the Saudi Arabian cities Jeddah, Mecca and Madinah and Dammam.

Dubai has already made significant strides in public transport with its famous fully-automated driverless metro system – the largest in the world. There are now plans to extend the network even further and The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) are now building a 14.5km-long ‘red line’ dubbed ‘Route 2020’ and are set to better connect the city to the upcoming 2020 Expo. The number of stations on the entire network is set to increase from the current 47 to 70 by 20202. Dubai is also constantly developing its bus network by increasing the number of bus stops, dedicated lanes, routes and the number of available buses in a plan to reduce congestion. In 2010 and 2011 Dubai introduced 7km of dedicated bus lanes and is now discussing the possibility of fully segregated BRT lines. In 2015 the RTA made plans to build 400 air-conditioned bus shelters in the city3.

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