By Andy Sambidge
Senior Atkins exec hails region's high level of planning and investment in transport infrastructure
The high level of planning and investment in multi-modal transport infrastructure in major Middle East centres is enough to bring them close to terms with the world's most advanced cities within 15-20 years, a senior Atkins expert has predicted.
Dr Ghassan Ziadat, Atkins' director of planning and infrastructure, told a conference in Saudi Arabia that clear government direction, through policy and legislation, remains essential to ensure progress in the region's major cities.
Once the benefits of mass transit become clear, Ziadat believes there will be a "virtuous circle" for urban design in the region.
"As new public transportation, particularly metros and light rail, become adopted this enlightenment can only increase, and I firmly believe we're going to see cars lose their prime status as the favoured method of inner-city transportation in an incredibly short timescale," he said.
Ziadat added that the effects of public transport investment in cities such as Riyadh and Doha could ultimately have an even more transformational effect than that witnessed in Dubai.
"What we see now in Dubai is a very robust expectation that new developments need to be well integrated into the public transport network, with strong pedestrian access and an attractive public realm - otherwise they won't be successful.
"This shows a more mature market, and it gives me confidence that we'll see a similar impact right across the gulf region which will see major centres playing an accelerated catch-up with the most advanced transit cities in the world, such as Hong Kong and Singapore."
Investment in public transportation in the Middle East over the next 10-15 years is expected to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
New metro and LRT systems are either planned or underway in Doha, Riyadh, Makkah, Jeddah, Dammam and Abu Dhabi, while Dubai is to extend its metro system and is launching a new tram network.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.