Is Qatar’s rail network ready for the World Cup?

The long-awaited 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off on November 20, with 1.2 million tourists expected to arrive in Qatar, which has a population of nearly 3 million.

While this isn’t the first time the country has hosted a major sporting event – it has previously hosted events such as the 2006 Asian Games and the FIFA Club World Cup – the growth in visitor numbers will be far greater than ever before. 2015 and 2016 were peak years for Qatari tourism, attracting an average of just 245,000 visitors per month.

Fifa’s decision to grant rights to Qatar has, understandably, faced endless scrutiny over whether the country has the infrastructure to host an event of this magnitude.

When Qatar was confirmed as the host in 2010, its rail network did not exist. However, with the launch of Qatar Railways in 2011 – to develop, operate and maintain passenger and freight rail infrastructure – Qatar has gone all out to ensure its transport network is ready to support the coming city of football fans.

A rail network fit for the World Cup

Nine years after winning the World Cup rights, Qatar Railways has opened the doors to the Doha Metro, a three-line metro system spanning 37 stations across the capital. Transporting passengers at speeds of up to 62 mph and connecting five of the eight World Cup stadiums, the system will play an integral role in Qatar’s traffic operations throughout the World Cup.

The Red Line – which runs from Hamad International Airport through central Doha to Lusail, where the final will take place on December 18 – offers fully air-conditioned stations that fans can freely enter and use throughout the game. Holders of tickets for the World Cup matches will be given a ‘Haaya Card’, a mandatory fan ID card that provides free access to Qatar’s public transport network from November 10 to December 23.

Each train will be equipped with a public Wi-Fi system to keep fans connected as they travel between venues, while those travelling in the Gold class (one of the three available carriages, plus standard and home sections) will have access to device charging points .

While Qatar has gone to great lengths to accommodate visiting fans, its authorities have also said there are “no exceptions for foreigners who break the law”. Every train on the Doha Metro network is equipped with CCTV and fans need to look their best as they travel to and from the game.

Doha Metro map showing stadium locations for the 2022 World Cup.Credit: Qatar Supreme Council for Delivery and Heritage

“If you drink alcohol before or after a ‘fan zone’ game, be careful when returning to your hotel or accommodation as this will be considered ‘in public’ and therefore you may be committing a crime,” EMEA Kate said Kate Fitzpatrick, regional security director at World Travel Protection.

“Even behaviours such as singing and dancing can be interpreted as being under the influence of alcohol, which is a crime and outside of these areas you can be punished.”

The Doha Metro will be the heart of Qatar’s rail network during the competition. However, it is part of a wider expansion that includes the newly opened Lusail LRT tram system and a long-distance railway that will eventually span Qatar and cities in other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Is Qatar’s rail network ready to launch?

While major sporting events often coincide with improvements in local transport infrastructure, the challenge for a country like Qatar is to determine the optimal amount of expansion for a sparse population.

“The World Cup is essentially a ‘money doesn’t matter’ game for Qatar, although it finds itself in a somewhat tricky position – especially when it comes to deciding what the optimal capacity should be for its new transport infrastructure, said Professor Simon Chadwick, majoring in sports and geopolitical economics at Skema Business School.

“The country has a population of less than 3 million, so building too large a network would be wasteful and unnecessary. However, with more than 1 million people expected to attend the event, there are deficiencies in both existing and new transport infrastructure. danger.

Passengers travelling in the Gold Class of the Doha Metro. Image credit: Noushad Thekkayil/Shutterstock

“Indeed, the latter seems to have become a problem. The country has opened the old international airport to complement the new Hamad International Airport. Concerns about the capacity of the metro network have led to the purchase of hundreds of electric buses , and a city-centre driving ban was introduced to ease concerns that Doha could become very crowded during the World Cup.”

The Doha Metro typically operates 75 trains, 21 hours a day, at speeds up to 62 mph, with a total capacity of 31,200. To ease congestion, Qatar Railways said it would increase services throughout the race, instead laying 110 trains, which will take the capacity to 45,700.

However, according to the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), up to 200,000 spectators could be in attendance at any given time, and the host stadium can provide a capacity of up to 80,000. With passenger numbers expected to rise six times higher than usual, Qatar’s vastly improved rail services may still struggle to cope with World Cup demand.

The lasting legacy of the 2022 World Cup

The recent improvement in Qatar’s transport network is not just because of the World Cup. In fact, Qatar Railways said the Qatar National Vision 2030, first proposed in 2008, is the “guiding blueprint” for these developments.

Having said that, the Doha Metro project has set a world record for the highest number of TBMs operating simultaneously in a single project, and the speed at which these developments are being completed shows that the event has indeed accelerated progress.

“The reality is that the political will of a city – especially not to be embarrassed by a poor transportation system globally – often changes as events go in its direction,” Chadwick explained. .

Whatever the reason, these improvements are sure to help achieve the economic, human and social development that the National Vision promises.

The Metrolink shuttle bus service waits outside the subway station, providing onward travel from the subway. Credit: Photo Play/Shutterstock

With the formation of Qatar’s rail network, it is significantly reducing road congestion in the city. According to Transport and Communications Minister Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, the Doha Metro and the accompanying Metrolink shuttle bus service have reduced congestion in the city by 25 percent.

While historical figures show a 1-2% GDP loss from congestion, data from the Qatar Transport Report 2021 shows that from 2020 to 2021, this figure will halve to just 0.3%.

Also, the Doha Metro uses driverless trains to run on electricity, providing better on-time performance, reduced service traffic and lower energy consumption, at a much lower environmental cost.

“The Doha Metro is an amazing project,” said Michael Looby, managing director of Byrne Looby, an engineering firm involved in the construction of the Doha Metro Green Line.

“It leaves a legacy not only to the community of Doha, Qatar’s capital, but to the global engineering community, showing how engineering and design can inspire, innovate and contribute to a greener city.”

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