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Middle East  


March 9th: Leading consultant WSP has called for Governments developing Metro or Light Rail systems in the region to ring-fence station-side land for smart developments which would help off-set the upfront cost of rail projects.


In its white paper Smarter Rail – A Whole-life Approach WSP says one of the major challenges for local rail asset owners is transitioning from a delivery-oriented organisation to an asset operator and maintainer. It says the whole lifecycle of a rail network is often over-looked during planning and design, even though the operational phase is significantly longer and requires far more investment than the project phase.

To help off-set the capital costs of construction and secure long term revenues to offset operating cost once in service the consultants argue that rail owners should look to implement schemes to develop smart transit hubs and developments on adjacent and nearby plots.

These transit-oriented developments (TOD) would create safe, vibrant neighborhoods around stations, well-connected pedestrian and cycling networks, densities that stimulate local commerce and transit ridership and minimise car traffic. The whitepaper cites research that shows locations next to Metro stations can enjoy increases in land values of over 50 percent in comparison to locations away from Metro stations, and that people who live in a TOD are five times more likely to commute by public transport than other residents.

To ensure is possible it calls for early land acquisition to be considered, particularly when the land is directly adjacent to Metro stations. It says ‘cooperating with urban planning authorities, rail owners should seek to immediately freeze land around planned transit corridors, acquire it where feasible or rezone it to encourage higher density, complementary land uses.  Smart TOD guidelines should be implemented to guide good TOD design.’

Head of Rail at WSP Brendan Young said: “The drive world-wide is for smart growth and smart cities and we see rail-based transit at the heart of this. Locally, as the Middle East looks to grow its rail network, there is an opportunity for rail owners to take the next step and create smart developments or hubs that not only have the potential to generate vital revenue but serve the wider smart growth & sustainability strategies envisioned by our region’s leaders.

“However to ensure that this vision can be realized some policy and regulation measures will be required, and one that we envisage being crucial is some form of regulation to freeze and  rezone station-side land for this purpose.”

The consultants also advocate several measures to heighten station operational performance, therefore minimising running costs, including efficient & effective cooling, security and waste management strategies.

Contact us at ME.Communications@wspgroup.com

WSP is one of the world’s leading professional services consulting firms, with 34,000 staff, based in more than 500 offices, across 39 countries. Together we provide services to transform the built environment and restore the natural environment, and our expertise ranges from environmental remediation to urban planning, from engineering iconic buildings to designing sustainable transport networks, and from developing the energy sources of the future to enabling new ways of extracting essential resources.

With 1,500 people in the Middle East, we are involved in many high profile projects including the Dubai Mall Expansion, Dubai; Orbital highway Contract 1, Qatar; Makkah Public Transport Program, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Doha Metro, Qatar; Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park Phase 1, Dubai; Qatar Rail Strategic Program Management, Qatar; Rabigh PP2, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; New York University, Abu Dhabi; Al Mutlaa Housing Project, Kuwait; Seventh Heaven at Al Barari, Dubai and Al Wakrah Bypass Road, Qatar.

In 2015 we won Consultant of the Year at both the Big Project Awards and Middle East Consultant Awards. We were named 12th best company to work in the UAE by the Great Places to Work Institute last year and have been shortlisted again in the Top 20 this year.

www.wsp-pb.com | www.wsp-pb.ae