Extending the line

After celebrating the completion of tunnelling on the Doha Metro Project, Qatar Rail is continuing to make substantial progress towards the development of Qatar’s integrated rail links

Qatar Rail is currently overseeing the construction of Qatar’s multi-billion dollar state-of-the-art integrated rail network, a critical aspect of the Qatar National Vision 2030, aiming to provide a sustainable, reliable and efficient transport system. This project has the full backing of the Emir who’s encouraging the whole of Qatar to support the Qatar Rail Integrated Project. “Three major qatar-rail-136-bprojects make up Qatar Rail’s responsibilities: the Doha Metro, the Lusail Light Rail Transit (LRT) network, and the Long Distance Passenger and Freight network, which will be connected to the wider GCC rail network,” explained Markus Demmler, Senior Programme Director. The planned national network will unify all railways in Qatar and will be connected to neighbouring countries to create the region’s first fully integrated rail system. By combining traditional elements with modern features, these programs will generate the region’s most comfortable, reliable, and safe railway system.

On Sunday 25th September 2016, Qatar Rail completed all tunnelling on the Doha Metro project with the final breakthrough taking place at Terminal One of Hamad International Airport (HIA). The overall completion of Doha Metro now currently stands at 50 per cent with the first phase expecting to be completed by 2020. Large sections of the Doha Metro will be underground: 11.3 km for the Red Line North, 12.05 km for the Red Line South, 16.6 km for the Green Line, and 13.3 km for the Gold Line. A record number of 21 tunnel boring machines were used for The Doha Metro, with each boring 1km and 20 working simultaneously. TBMs are a high-tech mechanised alternative to conventional methods of design-and-build mining, drilling and blasting tunnels through everything from soft ground to hard rocks. They form circular tunnels through the rock, and can install concrete linings along the drilled sections to reinforce the bored tunnel and stabilise the ground. “TBMs are a safe, fast and reliable tunnelling method, which do not influence ground water and geology,” Markus told us.

Targeting 140,000 passenger trips per day by 2021 The Green Line (GRN), or Education Line of the Doha Metro, will be a critical link between the eastern district of Al Riffa and Al Mansoura in the west when it is completed in 2018. When opened, 3.2 kilometres of elevated and at grade (EAG) line will emerge from the underground at the Education City trough and extend westwards alongside the proposed Gharafat Al Rayyan and Dukhan highway. Of the total EAG length, 2.4 kilometres will consist of viaduct spans with the remaining length providing at-grade, tunnel and ramp sections. The project also involves the construction of Al Riffa Station and Markus revealed that: “The Qatar Rail Green Line project has reached an overall progress of 68 per cent.”

The Red Line, also known as the Coast Line, runs for about 40 kilometres from Al Wakra in the south to Lusail in the north, also connecting Hamad International Airport at Terminal 1 to the centre of the city. Comprising of 17 stations, with the Legtaifiya Station allowing passengers to transfer over to the Lusail Light Rail Transit, the line offers a very convenient and reliable alternative to driving within the heart of the capital. A trip from the airport to Lusail, currently taking nearly an hour and a half at peak traffic time, will be a short 36-minute trip with the Doha Metro. Markus told us: “In terms of overall progress, the Red Line North is at 56 per cent whilst the Red Line South is at 60 per cent.” He went on to explain that, despite geotechnical issues on these two projects: “By thorough planning and engineering, the challenges could be translated into technical solutions.” Msheireb station, the largest station in Doha, is situated at the corner of the Msheireb development where Wadi Msheireb and Al Diwan Street meet. “Msheireb Station marks the crossing of three metro lines with the Red and Green Lines running parallel and the Gold Line situated underneath,” said Markus. The station features an extravagant entrance shelter as a landmark way finding for locals and tourists alike.

Lusail City, just north of Doha, is a visionary waterfront development currently under construction. Designed to be an environmental and self-sustaining community, the city will have residential and commercial developments, including schools, medical facilities, shopping centres, and more. In line with the vision of Lusail, the Lusail Light Rail Transit (LLRT) network will serve the qatar-rail-136-cresidents of the city by providing an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation that will not only connect destinations within Lusail, but also to Doha by way of the Doha Metro with two interconnecting stations. Markus revealed that: “The 38.5 kilometre LLRT is on schedule and has made 52 per cent of progress to completion.” It will be comprised of four lines with 25 stations at-grade in various configurations and seven underground stations. Average speeds of 29km per hour enables just one to two minute trips between adjacent stations and the aim is 50,000 passengers trips per day by 2021.

The final aspect of the Qatar Integrated Rail Project is the 350-kilometre Long Distance Scheme, which will connect residents to not only other cities in Qatar, but to population centres in the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The proposed regional rail network will travel at a speed ranging between 220 and 270 kilometres per hour for passenger trains, and 120 kilometres per hour for freight trains. Once the fourth and final phase is completed in 2030, this network will include lines to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the new port, and Hamad International Airport outside of Doha and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with a single journey replacing the need for hundreds of vehicles to take the same trip. The company will create a world class sustainable rail network for Qatar by ensuring that the interdependent principles of sustainability are meaningfully integrated into processes used throughout its projects and activities, including design, construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning.

Markus told us that these major projects have thrown up many challenges, in particular: “Time constraints with the overall implementation time being less than ten years from baseline plan to operation with a 2020 completion date ready for the Federation Cup, an essential rehearsal for the World Cup.” Jean Christophe Elis, PMC Project Director told Railway Strategies previously: “The biggest technical challenge with the project is time in the sense that the schedule is very tight. This is especially true of the intermediate milestones, which relate to the completion of main structural items for the stations and giving access to contractors who interface with the project like highway and track contractors. Bringing in all the resources in co-ordination with this becomes a big technical challenge. So whilst the overall deadline for completion is reasonable, the intermediate milestones can be very tight and demanding.” In an attempt to combat these issues the company is working to a fixed schedule and is currently on time in its progression of the projects. Despite the challenges, there are many opportunities of building a new project from scratch. “This includes implementing the newest technology with the highest flexibility in choosing Railway regulation standards whilst drawing from experiences from similar existing systems,” explained Markus.

Qatar Rail’s approach to risk management is fundamental to robust corporate governance and solid management practice. It is a systematic, integrated, and mandatory approach to managing all risks types for all Qatar Rail activities. Throughout the development of the project, on-site welfare has remained the most important aspect of the process for Qatar Rail, maintaining its health and safety standards by conducting regular surveys and ensuring a high number of safety supervisors to oversee the worker’s activity. This dedication to on-site welfare extends beyond the working zone as living conditions such as accommodation, catering facilities and shelter from the weather are all subject to regular inspection in order to meet the highest standards. Qatar Rail is aware of the international scrutiny various major development programmes within the country have been subject to and this cements its dedication to upholding its high welfare standards for its workers.

The majority of the civil works, concrete installations and roof structures on the Red and Green Lines have been completed and 2017 will be the year of MEP, architectural fit out and installation of railway systems. In addition to this, Markus told us: “We are aiming to begin isolated testing and then integrated testing during 2017 with the first train on the trial track by 1st September.” Looking towards the future, the first phase of the Doha Metro project is expected to be complete in 2020, the same year Doha Metro’s 37 metro stations are expected to be operative, with an average journey time of two minutes between adjacent stations. By 2030, all the three networks – Doha Metro, Lusail Tram and the long-distance rail, which will link Qatar with the GCC Rail network – are expected to be complete.