Qatar Rail says it has completed 86.5 kilometres of tunnelling work and is on course to complete the required 131-kilometre tunnelling work for the first phase of the Doha Metro in 2016.

The milestone was achieved as one of the tunnel boring machines (TBM) reached the future site of the Doha Exhibition and Conference station on 7 February.

Completing the entire tunnelling work will equate to completing 50 per cent of the total work required for phase 1 of the metro. This gives Qatar Rail about three years to complete the remaining work particularly for the construction of some 37 stations prior to 2019, when the first phase of the metro is expected to become operational.

The milestone announcement comes a few days after the firm fired 50 employees in line with what it calls a business efficiency review, and two weeks after UAE’s Etihad Rail confirmed laying off close to 30 per cent of its workforce.

The job cuts at Qatar Rail are reported to have happened at all levels and was undertaken as construction peaks and the company focuses on operational readiness. No further job cuts were planned, said a company spokesperson who spoke to local media.