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CANNES: Among the many projects launched by the Riyadh Royal Commission (RCRC), the most important is the King Abdulaziz metro and public transport project. It’s been confirmed Arabic News in French Ziyad Alakhya, RCRC Public Transport Development Manager, during a meeting at Mipim 2022 in Cannes.

Ziyad Alyahya, head of the public transport development department of the RCRC. (Photo by Philippe Desjardins)

In March 2019, King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced an unprecedented initiative to green the capital. A titanic project consisting of four development projects in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh.

Among them is the spectacular King Salman Park, which will be one of the largest urban parks in the world and is designed to elevate Riyadh’s position among the 100 most livable cities in the world according to Vision 2030. In an area of ​​more than 13 km2, it will combine the most a variety of environmental, cultural, recreational and sports activities, which will significantly improve the life of the population. The planned budget for these ambitious new infrastructures is estimated at $28,000 billion (one dollar = €0.91).

Another major project of the Kingdom, the historical development of the Diriyah Gate, is intended to be one of the largest cultural projects on the planet and celebrate the history and traditions of Saudi Arabia. A project that has been set at $60,000 billion. Leisure and sports will not be left out either: the third project, Boulevard des Sports, which will include a 135-kilometer multipurpose track designed for running, cycling and horseback riding, will cost $18,000 billion. .

All these projects will be coordinated by the Riyadh Royal Commission. She is responsible for the overall planning and development of the capital of Saudi Arabia in the urban, demographic, economic, social, cultural, environmental, infrastructure, digital facilities and transport areas. Arabic News in French met with Ziyad Alyahya, Head of Public Transport Development at the RCRC, to discuss the progress of another major project in the Saudi metropolis: the Riyadh Metro.

What is your function in the Riyadh Royal Commission?

I am responsible for metropolitan metro stations and locations around each ?. My work is also to develop the economic and social environment around them by expanding and modernizing each space. I am a specialist in the analysis of public transport projects, mainly metro and buses.

Is this metro the most important project for Riyadh?

Yes, it is the most significant for the capital. This will completely change the life of the population, the face of the city will completely change. We want residents to change their attitude towards public transport, as we found out that 98% of them use their car to get around the capital. At a time when environmental issues are at the center of our concern, we must give priority to public transport. Traffic jams are a serious problem in Riyadh.

How are you going to do it?

With the construction of the subway and bus network, we will accommodate 21 Park & ​​Ride car parks with a capacity of 200 to 600 cars. Each has been studied and developed to facilitate the use of the metro network. These places are well distributed throughout the city so that residents can easily switch from their personal car to the subway. Our goal is that within five years, 40% of the population use public transport to move around the capital.

To do this, we are going to install six metro lines with 85 stations that will be open. In total, they will cover 176 km, and we hope to achieve this goal by 2030. Around each station there are several zones of intervention for development. The first, between 0 and 200 meters, will receive the most financial support from investors, and the second, between 200 and 400 meters, a little less. Development around each station is essential, especially in terms of real estate. We found that 40% of the area around was not used, and 20% were old buildings. All this makes up from 16 to 18% of the area of ​​the capital.

We plan to be able to absorb traffic of 11,000 people per hour and not have users wait more than ninety seconds between each train. Line 1 will have 12 stations and the first phase will be completed in 2023. I also want to clarify that each line will have four levels of movement in height. The deepest one will be 40 m underground, the second one 20 m, another one will be located at ground level and the last one at the top.

When did this metro project start?

We started setting the timetable in 2008 and the first studies started in 2011 with a final result in 2030. All this represents a budget of 24 billion dollars.

Is such a project not without certain difficulties, if only because of the composition of the soil?

Before starting the project, we had a lot of experts and specialists who tested the floors. Geologists have discovered caves, as well as three types of earth layers: sand, stone, and very loose material. We used the best techniques, each time adapting to the type of soil. Digging to the maximum, we took care to find the slightest flaw. To this end, we used the most sophisticated and modern equipment and, in particular, a 98 m long tunneling complex. When we wanted to dig tunnels, we realized that there were no detailed plans for the internal structures for the city, and, above all, we checked the incompatibility between the methods past and present. Despite the size of the project and the gigantic importance of the work, there was no paralysis in the activities of the city, traffic was remarkably manageable. And we saw the perfect collaboration with each group of neighborhoods through constructive discussions where residents could express their point of view, share their advice or comments. With this metro and bus lines, the face of our capital will completely change and will allow increasing the population from 7.5 to 15 million inhabitants by 2030.

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