Riyadh moves to cut congestion

12 December 2013

With a $20bn pipeline of metro construction ahead, Saudi Arabia’s capital aims for business hub status

Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh is pushing ahead with plans to improve its transport infrastructure to reduce congestion and improve accessibility to all areas of the city.

As those who have been to the kingdom’s capital can attest, travelling around the city is a slow, laborious process, particularly during peak traffic times. Journeys that should take no more than 20 minutes frequently take an hour or longer during busy times, and the problem is getting worse.

Congestion in Riyadh is the result of two main factors: rapid population growth and underinvestment in new infrastructure over the past 20 years. The capital’s population has grown from 2.8 million in 1992 to almost 6 million in 2013, with little investment in inner-city roads and transport routes, and, until recently, no real effort to develop an effective public transport system.

This year, however, Riyadh has shown it is serious about sorting out its infrastructure. In July, Arriyadh Development Authority awarded more than $20bn-worth of construction contracts for the six-line Riyadh metro project, and the authority has now awarded the first major contract to prepare the city’s roads for its Rapid Transit Bus network.

Providing an efficient public transport system will not only reduce congestion, but will also benefit the environment by removing cars from the roads.

The construction of the ambitious metro system, along with the numerous road improvement projects planned, will result in increased traffic problems over the next four years as the schemes are implemented. However, the end result will be worth the inconvenience in the short term. If Riyadh is to strengthen its position as a regional business hub, having an effective transport system is a must.

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