Abu Dhabi plans private highway

31 March 2008
Abu Dhabi is considering plans to use a private-public-partnership for the modernisation of the 327-kilometre highway linking Mafraq to Ghweifat in the west of the emirate as part of a surface transport masterplan.

John Lee, highways and transport planning advisor at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport told MEED’s Middle East Road Infrastructure conference in Dubai on 30 March that the project will cost about $2bn.

The initial plans, which require the approval of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, call for a long-term contract to be awarded. The winning consortium will receive payments based on performance, including lane availability, maintenance and safety.

“Our preliminary analysis shows that we will save at least AED4bn ($1.1bn), primarily by avoiding cost over-runs,” Lee said.

The contract could be followed by similar deals for the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road corridor, the Abu Dhabi to Al-Ain highway, and the entire Western region corridor.

Lee said that Abu Dhabi has rejected tolling as a way of paying for its PPP road projects. “To get tolling to pay most of the cost of highways would take too long,” Lee said. “There is resistance to tolling in Abu Dhabi. And to make the project work, we want to take the traffic risk away from the operator.”

Lee said the plan also calls for a highway concession law. “We believe there needs to be clarity and the law will also give comfort to bidders.”

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