Qatar Rail is making significant progress into developing the country’s rail network that will be critical to Qatar’s future vision of economic growth
In 2008, under the light of continuous and rapid economic and social development in Qatar, the country’s Emir launched the Qatar National Vision 2030, a scheme to manage and implement this development in the most productive way possible. One significant part of this development framework is the Qatar Rail Development Programme (QRDP), a vast project managed by the newly formed Qatar Rail to deliver a complete rail network to support the growing population and economic activity in and around the country’s capital, Doha.
“Our vision is to create the favourite mode of transport for everybody and to provide an integrated railway together with a public network of bus systems,” begins Senior Programme Director at Qatar Rail, Dr-Ing Markus Demmler. “We want to make it attractive and sustainable, both in terms of economic and ecological impacts, and to make sure it is of the highest quality whilst remaining economically viable. Ultimately, it will run parallel to achieving Qatar’s overall vision to reduce emissions, as most of the country is run on cars at present, to ease congestion and improve travel times both into and within the city.”
An overview of the planned network for the development project serves to display the sheer scale of Qatar Rail’s undertaking. The programme is split into three separate projects, the Doha Metro, a Long Distance network and a light rail network in the up-and-coming city of Lusail. The long distance network is designed for both high-tech passenger and freight services across five lines and 486 kilometres of railway connecting population centres with major industrial hubs and forming critical connections with neighbouring countries. The lines include: a mixed passenger and freight line from Doha to Saudi Arabia; a high-speed passenger line from Doha to Bahrain, capable of speeds up to 270km/h for high speed passenger trains; a freight line from Mesaieed Port to Ras Laffan; and two mixed lines from Doha to Dukhan, and Doha to Al Shamal. By 2021, 8000 passengers are expected to travel on the network every day, with this rising to 24,000 by 2031.
To facilitate the developing city of Lusail, a light rail, tram-based network is being developed across four lines and 37 stations, two of which will link to the Doha Metro network. In a city that is predicted to house up to 450,000 residents in the near future, the Lusail network has been designed to have a capacity of 50,000 passenger trips per day by 2021 and 120,000 a decade later. With an average speed of 29km/h, the lines will take an average of one to two minutes between adjacent stations.
The Doha Metro project, a strategically planned underground network to serve the expanding city of Doha, is undeniably the most complex of the three. As part of phase one, planned to be completed and operational towards the end of 2019, 37 stations will connect 85 kilometres of construction length spread across three separate lines. The Red Line, which will also be known as the Coast Line, is planned to run for a total alignment length of 42kms from Al Wakra in the south to Lusail in the north and will stop at 18 stations along its progress. In particular, the Red Line will connect Hamad International Airport to the city centre, it is estimated that a trip from the airport to Lusail will be 36 minutes compared to current peak times of an hour and half. Other notable stops will include West Bay, Katara and Qatar University. At its deepest, the Red Line’s tunnels will be as far as 46 metres beneath Doha’s surface.
Connecting Al Riffa in the East to Al Mansoura in the West and passing through the Education City, the Green Line will stop at 11 stations along its alignment length of 22 kilometres. Significant stops for the Green Line, or the Education Line as it is also known, will be the Hamad Hospital, Al Shaqab and the currently in development, Qatar National Library. Extending 15km from Ras Bu Aboud in the west and Al Aziziya in the west will be the Gold Line, or Historic Line. Stopping at 11 separate locations, the Gold Line will be a crucial link for Qatar National Museum, Souq Waqif, Al Waab and Sports City, which will be a key hub for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Due to be expanding with additional line extensions and a brand new line in phase two, according to the city’s growth, the total number of stations will be increased by over 70 across more than 200 kilometres of track. Upon completion by 2021, the entire metro system aims to take 17,000 cars off the road and have a significant impact on the city’s carbon footprint.
Upon completion, all lines will intersect at the central Msheireb station, the largest in the city, which will also serve as an iconic landmark in Doha. Station design is a key factor for the entire Doha network and an architectural branding has been established to ensure continuity of local favours and personality throughout the metro system. All stations will adhere to a contemporary ‘vaulted space’ concept, reflecting the heritage of the region’s traditional Bedouin tents. Functionality has also been designed into the aesthetic value of ornamental panels, which will form the backbone of a dynamic lighting and ventilation system. Through the use of traditional elements of Islamic and local art, each station will be a unique tribute to Qatari heritage with dhow-inspired exteriors and ‘pearl-effect’ interiors.
“In terms of time scales, we released the first civil design and build contracts for the Metro scheme in 2013,” explains Markus. “Work, including MEP and architectural fit out, will be completed by 2018. The railway systems contract, which is separate, is due to finish in 2019 with the aim to be fully operational by 2020, if not the end of 2019. So far, we are 28 per cent towards overall completion and have already achieved 55 per cent of the tunnelling work, for which we have employed a record-breaking 21 simultaneously operating TBMs. Significantly, we have only dropped behind schedule by 2.3 per cent.”
As a young and burgeoning company taking on a project of such scale, Qatar Rail has faced a number of challenges, particularly in the development of the Doha Metro network, but has been able to overcome many through significant strategic decisions and management processes. “When it came to our contractor strategy we decided it would be more beneficial to allocate many of the risks to contractors because they have the knowledge and experience,” highlights Markus. “This is what we have done through the awarding of design and build contracts, eight of which are civil with one overarching systems contract.” However, here arises the challenge of successfully managing a number of contracts in parallel to each other. As such, Qatar Rail has set up both a delivery division, to oversee the project management of all contracts with support from consultants, and a technical division, which ensured that significant design decisions regarding certain aspects that needed to be implemented across all lines, were made in harmony with one another.
Due to time pressures put upon the scheme the QRDP and Qatar Rail have achieved a number of unique milestones in the way it operates in Qatar. First of all is its contract strategy, as Markus explains: “The usual way in the Middle East is to take a design-bid-build approach. However, because of the time constraints a design and build contract was decided upon to be more viable. Because of its irregularity in the region there was a certain amount of concern about this approach initially, but it has saved us a lot of time and because of its proven success in the QRDP other authorities are taking this approach as well now.”
Another significant aspect of the programme, which highlights both the scale and success of Qatar Rail’s management, is its health and safety record. Markus points out that the project has a target of a 0.1 per cent AFR (accident frequency rate), but is currently operating at 0.06 per cent. “Overall, we have over 91.9 million man-hours worked on the project so far, so this is outstanding,” he says. “To achieve this we are constantly running extensive training centres with our contracting partners, so that every person who comes through a contractor is fully trained in line with our zero harm policy before going onto site. This focus on wellbeing is continued in the general facilities, such as accommodation, as a lot of the labour is coming from abroad.”
Successful progress defines the Qatar Rail project so far in terms of operation, management and safety, and this is set to continue through its course. “We have two major milestones to achieve next year,” explains Markus. “One is the overall tunnel completion and the other is to finalise the procurement process for MEP and architectural works to conclude all the contracts and therefore have everything awarded that is currently under development. Looking further ahead we are already preparing for phase two of the Metro project. Although this hasn’t been confirmed as yet, we think it would be wise to continue directly on from phase one as we have all the machinery, equipment and labour on site.”
Most of the viaduct spans are simply supported bridges. The viaduct substructure requires construction of in-situ foundations, sometimes on piles, supporting slender tapered box section piers, topped off with precast pier caps. The superstructure then consists of slender precast segmental post-tensioned concrete troughs with a U-section. The stations have been designed over three levels in order to cater for the needs of all travelling public and railway operations. The civils work for these is relatively simple with excavations, walls and columns, whereas the interior fit out and finish is more challenging.
State-of-the-art construction methods for segmented pre-casting, span-by-span construction, and full-span precast installation have all been employed in order to complete the huge amount of work involved in the RLS EAG project in just 31 months, alongside the busy Al Wakra to Doha highway.
As of September 2015, 19 months in and a year to go before completion, the RLS EAG was working at full capacity to achieve such a vast undertaking and is exemplary of the mass engineering that is going into the Qatar Rail Integrated project as a whole. The enabling batching plant and precast yard are currently fully operational with the precast yard turning out eight pier caps, 26 viaduct deck segments, and one single-track beam every week. All foundation, pier and precast mock-ups, in order to prove the materials, methods and workmanship have been completed.
In terms of construction, more than 75 per cent of all foundations, 50 per cent of all in-situ piers and 35 per cent of all 206 pier caps have been installed in preparation for the actual viaduct installation. So far, three launching gantries have been manufactured, shipped to Doha and erected, and two of these have begun the installation of viaduct spans. Three viaduct spans had been completed by September.
As for the stations, mock ups for finishes and fittings are seeing good progress and construction of the three are in various stages. The Economic Zone and Ras Bu Fontas have progressed to concourse level.
FOCUS ON: Red Line South – Elevated and at Grade project
Due to be completed by 2020, ahead of the 22nd FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Doha Metro Phase One network is being achieved through eight separate projects. Three of these projects relate to 17km of elevated and at grade (EAG) routes, plus six stations, all of which will be above ground and highly visible. These are the Red Line North (RLN) – 6kms and 2 stations, to be completed by December 2018; Red Line South (RLS) – six kilometres and three stations, to be completed by autumn 2016; and Green Line (GRN) – another six kilometres and just one station to be completed by December 2018.
RLS EAG will include approximately six kilometres of viaducts and extend from Al Wakra, 15km south of Doha, to the Old Airport, where it will meet with the RLS Underground project. Three elevated stations at the Economic Zone, Ras Bu Fontas and Al Wakra will be vital elements to this section of the network. This will be the first project to be finished. This will allow the track and three stations to be used as a test section up to a year in advance of other Metro lines being ready to open to the public. Consequently, it is further advanced.
Being a highly visible part of the metro network, the EAG structures have been designed in accordance with the Qatar Rail Architectural Branding concept whilst also taking the surrounding environment into account.