Super Systems: The Riyadh Metro

May 10, 2018 in Transport

9 million trips are made in the city of Riyadh every day. A great number of these are by car. However, a new public transport system could profoundly transform the daily commute. In one of the world’s largest urban transport ventures, the Riyadh Metro Project aims to lift 3 million drivers off the road to reduce day to day congestion.

The project has come about at a critical point. The High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh has acknowledged that congestion, pollution, and reduced mobility will constrain economic growth. This is why Riyadh must reorganise the transport network and develop a system that works for a such a large city. Remarkably, the number of daily car trips is projected to double from 7.4 million to 15 million by 2030, and the number of hours spent on the city’s roads will climb from 2 million to 4.7 million as the average speed of a journey plummets from 45km/h to 18km/h. Taking people off the roads and putting them onto the metro should help enormously.

The Riyadh metro is the world’s largest turnkey metro project. Costing $23 billion to develop, the infrastructure features six lines with 85 stations, covering 176 km in and around the city of Riyadh. Works on the metro project are also concerned with complete system capability including signaling, electrification, trackwork and maintenance services.

Riyadh Metro Alstom is one of the three major metro suppliers delivering the project. The company will provide an integrated system for three of the six train lines. They are also supplying 69 metropolis aluminum automated 2-car trainsets, the Urbalis driverless solution, telecommunications, and infrastructure for lines 4, 5 and 6.

In January, the first 2-car trainset was shipped to the city. The second one will arrive in Riyadh this month. The trains are completely motorized and driverless and can run at a top speed of 90 km per hour. Metro product director Pierre Delpierre claimed great benefits of the driverless trains, saying that they are eco-friendly than regular trains and they do not waste time with driver changes.

The trains have been built with first class, family, and singles sections, to make the metro suitable for all.

As expected, impressive construction logistics have demonstrated the scale of the build.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ADA has over 1000 staff working on the project, comprising of 30 nationalities with 23 different languages spoken between them. Over 43,000 construction workers are now employed on the public transport development under direction from various command centres in the city.

The construction itself is equally impressive. Infrastructure work involved excavation of 52km of tunnels using a combination of TBMs, cut-and-cover, and the New Austrian Tunnelling Method. Extensive viaduct construction was also required, and six different construction methods have been used to build the elevated sections of the network (87.4km). The Fast consortium is employing the Full-Span Launching Method (FSLM) on Package 3. Interestingly, this is the first time this technique has been used in the Middle East. Full-span girders weighing up to 450 tonnes are being pre-cast and lifted into a girder carrier, which transports them across the existing spans to a launching gantry: this lifts them into their final position. Fast is installing 256 spans using FSLM.

ADA estimated that contractors excavated 15 million cubic metres of earth by the first quarter of 2017. In addition, the contractors poured nearly three million cubic metres of concrete, and used more 400,000 tonnes of steel. Utilities diversions alone contribute to these figures. ADA has arranged the relocation of more than 170km of power cables, 43km of water mains, 38km of telecoms lines, 18km of sewage pipes and 26km of irrigation channels. More than 230 million hours of labour has gone into the metro project to date.

The project would not be possible without contractors. The BACS consortium led by Bechtel, including Aecom, Saudi company Almabani General Contractors, Middle East-based Consolidated Contractors Company, and Siemens, was awarded Package 1, a $US 9.45bn contract for design, construction, rolling stock, signalling, electrification and integration of lines 1 and 2. As E&M partner in BACS, Siemens is supplying 45 four-car Inspiro driverless trains for Line 1 and 29 two-car trains for Line 2, built at the company’s Simmering plant in Vienna.

Package 2 for the construction of Line 3 is worth $US 5.21bn and was awarded to the Arriyadh New Mobility Group, which is led by Salini Impregilo. The package includes partners Larsen & Toubro (India), Nesma (Saudi Arabia), Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, Idom (Spain) and WorleyParsons (Australia). Ansaldo STS’ share is worth $US 680m; it covers automatic train control (ATC), CBTC, power supplies including third-rail electrification, the operational control centre, telecommunications, and fitting out depots. The contract includes an option for 10 years’ maintenance. Bombardier’s share of the contract is worth $US 383m and includes 47 two-car Innova Metro 300 driverless trains, which are being assembled at the company’s plant in Sahagún, Mexico.

BACS awarded Larsen & Toubro, India, a $US 161.3m contract in 2015 to install 62.9km of ballastless track on lines 1 and 2.

Voestalpine is supplying rails and turnouts for the two lines. ThyssenKrupp is supplying 251 elevators and 390 escalators for lines 1 and 2.

A joint venture of Parsons, Egis Rail, and Systra was awarded a €425m contract to supervise construction and provide project management services on lines 1, 2, and 3.

The $US 7.8bn design-and-build contract for lines 4, 5 and 6 was awarded to the FCC-led Fast consortium, which includes Alstom, Samsung, Freyssinet Saudi Arabia, Strukton, Setec and Typsa. The three lines have a total length of 63.8km (29.8km elevated, 26.6km underground, 8.2km at grade) with 26 stations.

Lloyds Register Rail (recently renamed Ricardo Rail) was appointed independent safety assessor for all six lines towards the end of 2014. In January 2015, ADA awarded Indra a 54-month contract to supply fare collection systems for the metro network and 1000 buses. The arranged deal that included 10 years’ maintenance work.

Director of the architectural project program at Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) , Mr Khalid Alhazani announced that progress is steady. He said:

“We are on schedule. We reached 48 percent completion and we believe the metro will start operating by early 2019 with no delay,”

The metro, along with the 24-line bus network under the King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport, will support the growing population in the area. With energy use and consumption, a prevalent global problem, the project hopes to save 620 liters of fuel and more than $185 million worth of yearly air pollution cost.

With construction well underway, Mr Alhazani is now stirring public interest. In an interview with local press, he explained how “this is the first metro project in the Kingdom”. Until now, the “people in Riyadh [didn’t] have experience in public transportation”. Taking a proactive approach, the Director said that he is “visiting retail outlets, offices and homes to introduce the project and tell them about the detours during construction.” “People appreciate it because they understand that this project will improve their lives for the future”, he added.

Although the team expect high usage of the Riydah metro, they predict that “it will take time for people to get used to public transportation,” so they must “plan everything in detail to make it easier for them to use”. This includes the integration of walkways and car parks. Walkways will be designed along the metro lines with trees and street furniture. 25 car parks will be built where people can use their cars to reach the nearest station. In addition, commuters will be relieved by an enhanced passenger experience, according to Samir Karroum, Middle East and Africa vice president of systems and infrastructure at Alstom. The Riyadh metro will feature a powerful air conditioning system to cope with extreme heat. Platform screen doors are being fitted for health and safety. For easier orientation, the advanced passenger information system delivers real time information to passengers through screens and loudspeakers. The interior design of the trains include high comfort seating with elements of traditional architecture inspired by award-winning designers.

The metro project will undoubtedly transform travel in Riyadh, aiding the city’s modern economy and helping its growth. The size of the network, and the rate at which it is being constructed, seems to show the confidence that Saudi Arabia has for public transport.