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Expat wanderer

Train (Qatar to Bahrain) Construction to Start

What excites me about this project is that the train which will begin construction soon, also ties in with a beautifully laid out public train system to link major hubs in Qatar. I wish I had taken a photo of the map in the paper – it looks like the London tube system, different lines – different colors, circles where you can switch lines . . . Qatar is definitely going to do this, and to me, it is very exciting.

What public transportation means to me – instead of driving, which I don’t mind all that much, I can sit and read a book!

Qatar-Bahrain causeway work to start in early 2010
Web posted at: 11/23/2009 6:49:46
Source ::: Reuters
ABU DHABI: Construction of a 40km causeway that would connect gas exporter Qatar to the Gulf island state of Bahrain will start in the first quarter of 2010, an official said yesterday.

“We are evaluating the final design and cost of the project and expect construction to start early next year,” Jaber Al Mohannadi, general manager of the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Foundation, told a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Construction was initially scheduled to start in 2009, but the addition of rail lines delayed the project.

“Project completion will be in 2015,” he said, but declined to give the estimated cost of the project because the figure was yet to be finalized.

Contractors selected to carry out the project include France’s Vinci and Germany’s Hochtief AG, Mohannadi said.

The latest official cost estimate of the causeway, one of the longest in the world, stands at $3bn to be shared between Bahrain and Qatar. Users of the bridge will have to pay a toll, Mohannadi said.

Jassim Ali, a member of the financial and economic affairs committee of Bahrain’s parliament, estimated the project to cost $4-$5bn.

“Qatar will probably be providing some soft financing to Bahrain” to help cover its share of the cost of the project, Ali said.

Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, has one of the world’s highest per capita gross domestic product, while Bahrain is a small oil producer with limited public finances.

The rail tracks on the causeway would be part of a planned train network that will connect the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which also include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is an important business hub of the region.

The 1,940km GCC rail network will cost $20-$25bn as Gulf Arab states plan to spend more than $100bn on various rail projects to improve public transportation.

Qatar and German rail and logistics group Deutsche Bahn [DBN.UL] signed a $23bn deal that provides for building a passenger and freight railway.

Bahrain in April launched a new port that it hopes would help it become a shipping hub for the northern part of the Gulf.

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Building, Bureaucracy, Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | | 5 Comments

Kuwait Metro? Yes! It’s Possible!

I love my family. There is Earthling, and his darling wife, who keep me up to date on trends and the newest coolest things in GoogleEarth, there is Sporty Diamond and her family who are my go-to people for the newest in child raising and urban trends, Law and Order Man and EnviroGirl, who keep us up to date on media – books, music and television they think we need to know about, as well as keeping the smallest possible footprint as we exercise our stewardship of the planet Earth, and then adorable Little Diamond, who speaks fluent Arabic in about 20 dialects, who lives comfortably in Damascus, or Beirut, or Rabat, and who sends me these articles, this one from the Oxford Business Group, that tell me more about the countries I live in.

Thank you, little Diamond, especially since public transportation is one of my pet projects. 🙂

Kuwait: Working on the Railway

8 October 2009

Kuwait was one of the first countries in the region to float the idea of a metropolitan rapid transit network, and attention is once again returning to public transport projects in the country.

While there has long been talk of developing a rapid transit system in Kuwait, the proposal has been taken further by the private Kuwait Overland Transport Union through a detailed feasibility study completed last year that included setting out routes and estimating the cost of the project.

The plan called for a four-line metro grid to be built, with some two-thirds of the network to be elevated and the remainder below ground. According to government projections, when the 165-km network is fully operational, it will carry 69m passengers a year.

However, the scheme was soon sidetracked, even though there had been an announcement that tenders would be called for the project before the end of 2008. In January, the government said it would conduct a comprehensive study of Kuwait’s land transport needs, with the metro project to be incorporated into a wider national transport strategy.

Enthusiasm for the rail network may have got a timely boost from the opening of the initial stage of Dubai’s metro network on September 9, the much-touted answer to the emirate’s traffic congestion and pollution problems.

In its first two weeks of operations, more than 1m passengers rode the Dubai metro. Although it will be some time before a full assessment of the Dubai metro can be made,. the launch and apparent popularity of the line could encourage Kuwait to push ahead with its own project.

Supporters of the Kuwaiti scheme say the transit system will reduce pollution and traffic congestion in Kuwait City, encourage more decentralised residential development, and promote economic growth in outlying areas that will be opened up by quick rail access.

Though all this will likely be true, as is the case with most such major public transport schemes, there are almost as many cons as there are pros. In particular, the cost of constructing and operating the metro could weigh against the project.

While the development should ease Kuwait’s traffic congestion and could prove popular with commuters, it is unlikely to turn a profit. In its current form, the metro grid is expected to cost around $7bn. While this may change following the broad review of the country’s transport needs and the type of rail system needed – underground, raised or ground level – the outlay will be high.

Added to this is the fact that there is little chance this initial outlay will be recovered though earnings once the network is up and running. Even with the projected 69m passengers a year, in order to make a return on investments and then turn a profit, ticket prices will have to be high, defeating the objective of a low-cost transport system.

Most of the proposals put forward for the metro scheme involve a mix of public and private capital to fund the project. One version of the partnership arrangement put forward by the Ministry of Communications would see the state providing 24% of the project funding, contractors putting in 26% and the remaining 50% coming via an initial public offering (IPO).

Another suggested funding breakdown has the state contributing 50% of the capital required and the other half coming from the private sector, with several companies to be set up to undertake different parts of the projects, each being subject to an IPO.

Though these formulas would restrict the state’s exposure to the project and serve to encourage greater private participation in the economy, the question remains as to whether either the lead contractor or other investors would commit to a scheme that is a potential loss-maker.

However, at least some of the running costs of the metro could be offset by the lower use of subsidised petrol by commuters. With Kuwait having some of the cheapest fuel in the world, there is less inducement for locals to find an alternative to the automobile to get around. Raising the price of petrol at the pump could induce some motorists to abandon their cars and adopt the metro as their transport of choice, with the higher cost of fuel and more revenue from ticket sales combining to reduce any potential losses.

While the slow pace of the metro project may be frustrating for some, there could be advantages to adopting a methodical approach. By not being the first train out of the station, Kuwait’s planners will be able to learn from the experiences of Dubai and other cities, taking the best and avoiding the worst in the planning and construction process and also developing a sound funding model acceptable to all.

By all accounts, it is not a case of if but when for Kuwait’s urban rail transit network. The extended planning and development process may well result in a project that can combine versatility and popularity with profitability, a rare combination in public transport.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Technical Issue, Travel, Work Related Issues | | 9 Comments

New Buses, Mixed Blessing

As many of you may remember, I am a supporter of public transportation. I would SO much rather have the time to read a book or magazine than to be stuck in traffic. When I saw the bright, modern, fast new buses hit the streets recently in Kuwait – during the last year – instead of the clunky slow, old buses they had, my heart rejoiced.

Hmm. Not so fast.

I drive on a major local road regularly. The buses have become a menace. They drive way fast. They halt, and then merge back into traffic as if they have the right of way, which as we all know, in Kuwait there is no right of way. I guess they figure that because they are big, and faster, they are king of the road. I can tell you for a fact, they don’t like being passed by a woman. Imagine, being chased down by a bus!

Buses cause accidents on Sixth Ring Road

Al Watan staff

KUWAIT: Sixth Ring Road was the scene of two accidents caused by public buses.

A man driving a small car suffered serious injuries when he hit a public bus after the bus driver lost control of his vehicle and hit the barrier and then stopped at the middle of the road. The man was taken to the hospital by a fellow citizen to seek medical assistance.

Ten minutes later, another bus driver repeated the same scenario of the first accident except as he hit the barrier he also hit a small car. The car driver suffered serious injuries and was taken to hospital to seek medical assistance. The two buses caused serious traffic congestion but police officers managed to move them to the side of the road and continue the traffic flow.

I don’t know what training the drivers receive before they head out in their buses. I have a suspicion that it isn’t much. I think they need to be trained in safe driving practices, and warned against aggression on the roads. I think they need to use their rear view mirrors, their signals, and they need to be an example of proper driving, because they are a visible, public model of state policy.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Social Issues | , | 11 Comments