Promises of a better future

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In2010, following a presentation by the Ministry of Transport, the Emir of Makkah Region announced his administration’s plans to implement a number of vital projects, including a SR21-billion tram system linking the various residential districts of Jeddah.

The plan for developing Jeddah’s public transport system was prepared by Canada’s IBI group, which provides a full range of services related to the movement of people, goods and information within and between transport facilities. The company is a leader in multi-disciplinary organizations offering services in four areas of practice: Urban Land, Facilities, Transportation and Systems. The study by the IBI group for Jeddah offered intelligent transport plans and advanced public transport solutions to efficiently manage and operate transportation systems through the application of technology and information.

The Emir stated that the trams would pass through and link the 12 main streets in the city, adding that the annual operation cost of the new system would reach SR370 million.

“The Ministry of Transport has a plan to operate 816 buses to link the city’s various districts as part of the new plan,” the Emir said. Although no timetable was mentioned for the start or conclusion of the project, the Emir added that the new system would include commuter and tourist trains.

The envisioned public transport system, which uses monorails, buses and trams to link the various arteries flowing through Jeddah’s residential districts, is expected to bring about a revolution in the city’s traffic system. The project also involves 201 stations and dozens of tramcars. A metro similar to the one being established in the capital city of Riyadh would also be an integral part of Jeddah’s transport system.

The metro would consist of three lines, including one connecting the Old Makkah Road to Sari Street, the second running along Prince Majed Street from King Abdulaziz International Airport to the site of the old airport, and a third along Palestine Road. The Emir added that the Jeddah Mayoralty was constructing a number of bridges, tunnels and underpasses at a cost of SR5 billion to remove traffic bottlenecks in various parts of the city. A new bridge linking northern and southern Obhur was also being planned to facilitate traffic.

While the function of the Ministry of Transport is to undertake the design, building and maintenance of the Kingdom’s network of roads, it is also responsible for the co-ordination of all surface transport, including bus services and railways. The Mayoralty is the public service organization in the game of ensuring that we go about in our vehicles with the minimum of pain and heartache.

The Emir concluded by disclosing plans to establish more recreational facilities in the city. “Efforts are under way to establish 150 parks in various parts of the city,” he said, adding that Jeddah required 15.74 million square meters of green space, double what was already in the city.

This was welcome news for Jeddah residents who have long become weary and frustrated at the road conditions they face daily. From traffic congestions to road diversions and potholes resembling mini-craters, motorists in the city have had a rough time just navigating around. The toll on nerves and automobiles in the last few years is incalculable.

Eight years on and many parks have sprung up in neighborhoods. However, to my knowledge not a single tram station has been constructed yet. The Haramain train scheduled to be fully operational back in 2015 has just recently begun taking on passengers, and Jeddah’s new airport that was planned and budgeted for in the last century is yet to fully open.

Residents are used to hearing of such lofty goals only for them to grow older and wonder whatever happened to the promised projects. Perhaps now in the era of checks on corruption and accountability, something will soon happen.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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