Riyadh, Feb 20 (IANS) The Riyadh metro, one of the world's largest urban transportation projects and the first in the oil-rich kingdom, is set to be operational by 2019. But its main challenge, officials said, will be to ensure "people get used to public transportation" in a country where they love their big cars.
Officials from the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh announced at a press conference at Alstom's manufacturing facilities in Krakow, Poland, that the project, being built at a cost of $23 billion, would handle three million commuters to relieve traffic congestion in Saudi Arabia's capital city.
Khalid Alhazani, Director, Architectural Project Programme and Public Affairs at Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA), said: "We are on schedule. We reached 48 per cent completion and we believe the metro will start operating by early 2019 with no delay."
Alstom is supplying 69 Metropolis automated aluminium two-car train sets, each 36 metre-long and suitable for accommodating up to 231 passengers, for lines 4, 5 and 6 (or Yellow, Green, and Purple).
As part of the FAST consortium, the company has worked on the project since April 2014 alongside FCC Construction, Samsung C&T, Strukton and Freysinnet.
Alhazani acknowledged the challenges of the public transport system, explaining: "This is the first metro project in the Kingdom; people in Riyadh don't have experience in public transportation. It will take time for people to get used to public transportation."
He said that Saudi officials have already created a detailed plan to make it easier for Saudis to use the metro, once operational.
The metro, when ready, would have six lines and 85 stations spread over a total network length of 176 km. The metro trains would be driverless and designed to run at a top speed of 90 km per hour.
Beside construction, the consortium is also responsible for training Saudi graduates in the range of administrative and technical skills to operate and maintain the metro system.
The external and internal livery of the trains would match the colours of the lines: yellow for Line 4, green for Line 5 and purple for Line 6. This is intended to make the metro easier to use for residents who are not used to this mode of transport, according to metroreport.com.
The trains would have three classes of accommodation: first class, family class and single class. The seat moquette design is inspired by traditional Arabian architecture and the handrails are shaped like palm trees.