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A commuter rail network for Jeddah

Comments (1) Business, Featured, Middle East

jeddah metro

Saudi officials hope the network, to begin operation in 2020, will ease congestion in the nation’s second largest city.

An extensive rail network, a critical piece of a plan to reduce severe traffic congestion in Saudi Arabia’s commercial capital, is expected to begin operation in 2020.

The $12 billion Jeddah network will have four lines – a Blue Line with 19 stations, including the airport, a Green Line with 12 stations, a Red Line with 24 stations, and an Orange Line with 30 stations.

In all, the network will comprise about 150 kilometers of track and will include construction of a road-rail suspension bridge over Obhur Creek. The network will connect to the Haramain high-speed rail station for travel outside the city.

Jeddah, a port city on the Red Sea, is Saudi Arabia’s second largest city after the capital, Riyadh. Jeddah also is a gateway to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

Traffic congestion plagues city

The train network is the central element of a larger plan by Saudi officials to ease major automobile traffic congestion in the city of 3.4 million people by 2030.

Traffic in the city has been described as “nightmarish,” and commuters are plagued with poor road design, lack of traffic officers, and drivers who do not follow traffic rules.

One goal for the Jeddah transportation plan is to increase from 12 percent to 50 percent the city population living within a 10-minute walk of public transportation.

Osama Abdouh, executive director of the government-backed Jeddah Metro Company, which is managing the project, said the project will “provide the best and most suitable types and choices for public transportation” for Jeddah residents and visitors.

At the same time, it will reduce traffic congestion and pollution in the city, Abdouh said.

Traffic in Jeddah

Traffic in Jeddah

Bus network, tram and ferries also planned

The Jeddah Public Transit Program also envisions a bus network, cycle networks and marine ferries along with a tramway on the Corniche coastal resort area.

The Saudi Council of Ministers approved the $12 billion transportation plan for Jeddah in 2013. Abdouh said the exact cost is to be determined as plans firm up.

Several contractors are already at work developing plans and designs.

The British architecture firm Foster + Partners was awarded a contract to develop the architecture for the master plan. Aeocom Tecnology Corp., based in the United States, is providing support for the planning and design phase, while a French company, Systra, is providing the engineering designs.

Bids to be sought

Later this year, the Jeddah Metro Company will seek bids a variety of contractors to supply trains and equipment, communications, passenger information, fare collection and train control systems, automatic train supervision, an operations center and depot buildings as well as mechanical, electrical, ventilation, cooling and plumbing systems.

Abdouh said the project expects to ask for bids for many aspects of the project in the second quarter of 2016, once the designs are completed.

The project is also in the process of acquiring approximately 150 pieces of property needed to develop the network in Jeddah.

The Saudi capital, Riyadh, is also getting a rail system. A six-line network with 178 kilometers of track and 85 stations is expected to be completed in 2018.

The projects are going ahead despite economic struggles in Saudi Arabia. Tumbling global oil prices have forced the Saudi government to dip into reserves.

The 2016 budget cuts government spending by nearly 14 percent from 2015 levels, but the country is still expected to have a budget shortfall of 13 percent of gross domestic product this year.

Meanwhile, development of railways is surging in the Middle East and Northern Africa. One 2014 estimate said rail and metro that were under way or planned in the Middle East totaled more than $200 billion and would cover more than 36,000 kilometers.

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Cargo drones, an economic revolution for Africa?

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Africa drone

Cargo drones come to Africa and it could mean an economic revolution for the continent

Drones are now part of our modern consciousness, our everyday reality. Having had a sinister reputation from the association with warfare, their potential is now being harnessed for good.

The development of cargo drones is currently underway across the globe, sparking interest from pioneering technological heavyweights like Google and Amazon, as the revolutionary form of delivery transport.

Cargo drones are essentially un-piloted flying robots that carry medium sized goods. There are different styles to fit different purposes and sizes vary between 3-6 meters in length.

Top internet retailer, Amazon, said on their website that soon viewing cargo drones will be, “as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”

For Africa this could mean far more than how a parcel is delivered. Their use has been put forward as a possible boost for the continent’s economy.

Leapfrogging the problem of infrastructure in Africa

With Africa’s rapid economic growth comes the need to build and improve infrastructure. It is estimated that Africa’s shortfall is a much-needed $50 billion per year in this sector. There simply is not enough money to build the roads and lay the new train lines required to keep up with increasing trade.

John Ledgard, the director of Afrotech and long-time Africa correspondent of the Economist has a plan. The futurist thinker sees a way to combat the gridlock that African trade is otherwise unquestionably going to face, failing spending $93 billion a year on financing infrastructure. He hopes to unlock the sky by eventually linking east to west.

Afrotech plans to fill the gap in Africa’s transportation by using cargo drones and their very own aerial highway. Starting by setting up routes in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, eventually all parts of Africa will be connected. The initiative from Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, is working with architects Foster + Partners to create the drone-ports for the routes which hope to be set up by the end of 2016.

“The Droneport project is about doing ‘more with less,’ capitalizing on the recent advancements in drone technology,” said Lord Foster, chairman and founder of Foster + Partners.

The biggest to the smallest airport in the world

Foster + Partners, responsible for the creation of the world’s largest airport in Beijing, China, will now create what could be considered in effect, the world’s smallest airport. Three dome shaped buildings will comprise the Droneport that will rest on Rwanda’s red earth. Designed to run on clean energy, it will eventually provide employment for the surrounding community.

Rwanda was chosen for the trial because the terrain is difficult to travel through and very little air traffic flies over. From here half the country will be reachable via the cargo drone routes. Prioritizing medical and time sensitive cargo initially, Ledgard has a clear vision of how the project will mature. Phase 1: mainly hospitals and humanitarian emergencies. Phase 2: industries that provide spare parts and building equipment.

“Phase 1 and 2 would be enough to make the drones useful contributors. But the real reason for the technology,” says Ledgard “is Phase 3, when the drones will better connect businesses with customers across Africa.”


Jonathan Ledgard

Jonathan Ledgard

Turbulence expected

All going to plan, this could be the making of the developing Africa. Inevitably there are valid causes for concern and tangible doubts, but no one is more aware of them than Ledgard himself. He openly cites the areas that may be of concern but says most risks are small or can be overcome and that it is an improvement on current affairs.

Important for Africa is whether it can adopt this new technology quickly enough to make it beneficial. It will need several aspects to come together: the army to ensure security, government leaders of regional economic groupings to put free trade into practice and laws to be passed allowing fully independent drone flight. With Africa united, this could truly be an economic revolution for the future.

“Cargo drones can affordably and precisely collapse time and space….in a city environment you want to collapse time and in a rural environment you want to collapse space,” said Jonathan Ledgard.

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