Jeddah Municipality is seeking to reduce congestion, cut accidents and modernise its limited public transport services through the implementation of a SR45bn ($12bn) multi-modal transport strategy aimed at developing a modern public transport system for the city.

Speaking at the MEED Saudi Mega Transport and Infrastructure Conference in Riyadh, Marwan al-Azzawi, technical director at Hyder Consulting, said key stakeholders from the public and private sectors have collaborated with the city to plan and develop a range of sustainable transport megaprojects for Jeddah, now being implemented.

Al-Azzawi told delegates that a population census in 2012 showed that Jeddah’s population had increased sixty-five-fold since records began in 1947 to more than 3.6 million. Al-Azzawi said that Jeddah’s population was projected to top 6 million people by 2034.

The city has also seen unprecedented increases in annual pilgrims making hajj and umrah pilgrimages, as well as a growing economy. Jeddah is the international gateway for Muslim pilgrims travelling to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Rapid expansion of the city has been accompanied by a surge in car travel that has seen significant increases in road accidents. Jeddah saw about 90,000 traffic accidents in 2012, which cost the city an estimated $500m.

This has led to the city committing to several megaprojects aimed at improving travel conditions, as well as encouraging people to switch to new, high-quality public transport.

New schemes planned for Jeddah include a series of road improvements as well as a public transport network that includes an express metro line, three primary metro lines and a commuter rail link. Light rapid-transit systems are also planned. Phase one projects are programmed for delivery by 2020, with a budget of SR45bn.

“To achieve this, you need to take a lot of small steps and remember that public transport [is] central to planning and land-use development plans,” he said. “We need to accommodate the new system to fit in with people’s needs.”

This includes special timing systems for religious holidays, weekends and school term times.