Three Consortia, One Team
The world’s largest public Transit System is now rolling out in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. A city-wide metro and bus network is a potent symbol of the modernisation and economic vitality of this city. Riyadh’s population is booming and is expected to expand from 5.7 million today to 8.3 million in 2030. Traffic congestion and pollution, resulting from 90 per cent of trips in the city being undertaken by private cars, are having a big impact on business efficiency and the quality of life of Riyadh’s citizens.
The city is acting quickly under the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh, which is developing this $23 bn project, through its executive arm, the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA). It has set a very challenging five-year implementation timetable.
The overall plan and budget for the project was approved in April 2012, and in 2013, the ADA awarded contracts to three international Consortia – FAST, BACS, and ANM – for the 6 – line metro system. Each consortium is responsible for designing and constructing the metro lines including all of the infrastructure, signalling and train control systems and for providing the fleets of the latest design in urban metro trains.
An Integrated Public Transport System
When the metro project is completed – scheduled for the end of 2018 – the city will be criss-crossed by 176 kilometre long network of metro lines with 85 stations, which will be integrated with a 1,150-kilometre bus network supported by a fleet of new buses. The trains will be driverless and use the latest Computer Based Train Control (CBTC) technology. The public transport system has been designed to accommodate future demands and the initial capacity can be enhanced, in the future, by deploying additional trains, increasing frequencies and using the capability of the CBTC. The entire network will eventually be able to handle about 3.2 million passengers per day. This compares to 3 million people daily on the London Underground.
The project has created many short term jobs for the construction work – there are 31,000 workers on the project and yet the project has not reached its peak workforce. Additionally the consortia are also responsible for training Saudi graduates in a range of technical and management skills through the technology transfer program. The aim of this program is to equip the Kingdom with people who have the necessary skills, not only to support the operation and maintenance of the public transport system, but also to be able to plan and manage other major projects in future.
Working in Concert
Successfully implementing such a massive project is a major challenge for the ADA, together with its project managers, consultants and the three Consortia. Effective coordination and close cooperation are essential to ensure that potential conflicts are avoided and to make the best use of the mix of local and international resources. The project’s many stakeholders – the citizens, government officials, local authorities and businesses – are engaged and well- informed of progress even if this is challenging. The ADA has established its own Public Affairs team to work closely with the Consortia communications to ensure that information is accurate and up to date via the most effective media channels, with social media at the forefront.
The FAST consortium, led by FCC Construction, includes French company Alstom, which has been active in the Kingdom since 1951. Alstom has extensive experience in delivering transport projects, having built, supplied and maintained urban and main-line rail systems in more than 60 countries, totalling a quarter of the world’s metro lines. For Riyadh’s Metro, Alstom is providing an automated driverless system, 69 Metropolis trains, its Urbalis signalling and HESOP braking energy-recovery systems, as well as Appitrack, its automated track-laying system.
Alstom has a long history of successful collaboration in transport projects around the world. It has partnered with Bombardier Transportation to produce trains for Montreal’s metro, with RENFE to maintain and renovate rail systems in Spain, and with Gibela Rail Transportation to build passenger coaches in South Africa.