Road travel is transforming in Qatar. With a population over 2.5 million, the country needs to expand transportation infrastructure. The Public Works Authority ‘Ashghal’ is investing in an ‘Expressway Programme’ that aims to expand and improve the nation’s highway network. The New Orbital Highway and Truck Route (NOH) is the latest venture under this remarkable program.
The NOH will connect Mesaieed in the south, to Al Khor in the north, by constructing a 195km-long direct road. The route will bypass the capital city of Doha in order to avoid traffic clots.
Ashgal is developing the project in four separate phases. In addition to new road, the company will construct 21 new interchanges, tunnels and flyovers.
The $380 Million project is engaging with 20,000 employees to bring the highway to completion.
Construction began in 2014. The first phase opened on 16 July 2017: a direct and strategic link between the Hamad Port, the Industrial Area, Salwa Road, Dukhan Highway and Al Shamal Road. It reaches as far as Lusail city and Al Khor. The route helps to facilitate goods movements coming from Hamad Port, the main port in the country.
The road will have a capacity of 6000 light and heavy vehicles per hour in each direction. With seven lanes in each direction, the NOH provides heavy vehicles with their own separate roadway (two truck lanes in each direction), which allows traffic to flow freely and safely along main expressways. This is expected to reduce travel time by about 50 percent.
The Orbital Highway also provides a direct link with a number of stadiums such as Al Rayyan Stadium, Al Khor Stadium, Lusail Stadium, and other sports facilities. In mid-2013, an approximate $140 billion of transportation infrastructure investments were announced, prior to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The budget covers the cost of broadening roads, rail, airways and sea transportation paths to accommodate the influx of tourists before the international football tournament begins.
The opening of Phase 1 took place in the presence of HE Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti, HE the Minister of Municipality and Environment, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi, HE President of the Public Works Authority Dr. Eng. Saad bin Ahmed Al Muhannadi and the Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) Hassan Al Thawadi.
Contractors are now working on the second phase of the network. This comprises 48km of new dual carriageway in the western and northern parts of Doha City. Starting at Salwa Road and ending at the North Relief Road, the segment includes eight grade-separated interchanges consisting of five lanes and two separated truck lanes in each direction.
55km of dual carriageway from Mesaieed to Salwa Road is included in the third phase. This stretch of road will comprise five two-level interchanges with five lanes and two truck lanes in each direction, along with the provision of two future lanes.
The fourth and final phase is located to the west and north of Doha City. This will include 42km of new dual carriageway and five grade-separated interchanges. The route starts from the Dukhan Highway and it ends on Al Khor Link Road.
A number of contracts have been agreed for the next three project phases.
J&P was awarded an $896m contract for the design and construction of the first phase of the highway. The company sub-contracted WSP to design the 45km section including four grade-separated interchanges.
The joint venture (JV) of Leighton Contracting Qatar and Al Jaber Engineering was awarded a QR6.15bn ($1.7bn) contract to design and construct the road segment from Mesaieed to Salwa Road. The JV engaged ACES Doha Geophysical Unit to conduct the geophysical survey for the segment.
The QR4.2bn ($1.16bn) design and construction contract for the Salwa Road to North Relief road section was awarded to the JV between QDVC and Bin Omran.
AECOM Middle East was awarded a QR540m (148m) contract to supply supervision and design review services for the project in June 2013.
Arcadis was responsible for designing the freeway management system for 47km of the Outer Orbital.
SALFO & Associates designed the temporary traffic management plan as part of the third contract, while Dar group won the contract for the fourth phase of the project.
KBR supervised the design consultants and construction contractors of the NOH project after being appointed as the programme management consultant for the Qatar Expressway Programme.
Once the NOH is complete, road safety across the nation will dramatically improve. Qatar has the world’s highest road accident rate per capita, with analysts finding 220,000 accidents in 2015 (Qatari Traffic Development). Therefore, the Expressway Programme will introduce a more robust signage and warning system throughout the country to help motorists understand the roads. This will be particularly important in areas with high incident rates such as Al Shamal and Al Khor.
In addition, major infrastructure improvements will keep the New Orbital roads to a high standard. A high capacity water drainage network will cope with storm precipitation, treated sewage effluent network will help with irrigation, bright street lighting will improve visibility around the network, and Intelligent Transport Systems will monitor the roads on a 24/7 basis. Camel underpasses will be incorporated for the safe and easy movement of livestock.
The materials for the infrastructure have been responsibly sourced from local providers, under Qatar’s initiative to ‘buy local products’- boosting the local economy. The CEO of Ashghal, Dr. Eng. Saad Bin Ahmad Al Muhannadi, said:
“We have sufficient stock of construction materials to implement infrastructure development projects and they will be delivered on scheduled time”The President also said that some building materials available at new local markets have very competitive prices compared to those coming from siege countries, earlier.
Previously, Qatari transport industry has faced some blockades in funding and in trade. Al Muhannadi has reflected on this. He said:
“Some building materials at new markets are cheaper and the projects are going on smoothly without any impact of the blockade,”
“We have learned lessons from the blockade, first of all we need to increase our local productions of building materials.”Speaking on replacing local products with imported ones, the CEO said:
“We have started using pipes for drainage and rain water, lamp posts and some types of steel made in Qatar in place of materials coming siege countries.”
“Ashghal is able to provide alternatives for all materials from different markets, and there is stability in supply of all type of construction materials”“We have benefitted from this experience by relying more on the local products and developing its quality, we have also started an initiative to speed up the local product qualification process.”
Recently, an exhibition was held under the ‘buy local products’ initiative to educate the suppliers about made Qatari products. “We are coordinating with them and some of them could be partners for future Ashghal projects”, said Al Muhannadi.“Qatar projects will not be affected by the blockade, and Ashghal is committed to implement projects as per schedules, and alternative plans were put to realize Qatar National Vision (QNV).”
The national vision, known as ‘Vision 2030’, has been promoted to deliver and manage state-of-the-art, sustainable world class buildings and infrastructure, transforming Qatar in to an advanced world leading country. The Orbital Highway is a strong example of the vision’s convictions. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani said:
“Comprehensive development is our main goal in striving for the progress and prosperity of our people.”
According to the General Secretariat for Development Planning, the “achievement of the Vision is a national responsibility.” The department said:
“All sections of Qatari society and all sectors have an important role to play. This will require signification institution and organizational capacity building; efficient and transparent delivery of public services; fruitful public/private cooperation and partnerships; the creation of a vibrant climate for business; and a larger space for civil society.”
According to the Vision, “Qatar must develop at a pace that is consistent with the realistic expectations of sustainable improvements in livelihoods and in the quality of life.” This means that “it must target growth rates that are compatible with its capacity for real economy expansion.”
Perhaps these initiatives are underpinned by strong national movement- with motorists, traders and freight having straightforward, safe access from place to place. New transportation infrastructure, such as the NOH, is the backbone to a growing, developing Qatar.