DUBAI The UITP (International Association of Public Transport) MENA (Middle East and North Africa region) Transport Congress & Exhibition in Dubai reflected the urgency need to find congestion-cutting solutions in the region.
Cities in the MENA region are seeing rapid urbanisation, with two thirds of citizens now living in cities. These cities are now also facing the issue of sprawl, with urban populations relocating to suburban areas. At the same time, economic growth combined with the relatively low cost of running a car is leading to increasing motorisation.
With population and urbanisation expected to continue increasing, public transport and non-motorised modes will be crucial to limit traffic and congestion, which has already reached alarming levels in many capital across the MENA region.
The role of governance was discussed at the event and the main recommendations were for cities to play a leading role in establishing a vision for public transport, to develop comprehensive and integrated master plans and to develop diverse public transport infrastructure, supported by policies to reduce car use. Technology will act as an enabler and cities will need to invest in new skills and adapt their structures to include and facilitate data-based decisions.
Given tight public resources, the issue of funding was a major topic for discussion, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), increasing efficiency or station naming rights/branding were all cited as potential solutions, whilst finding the right ticket price so as to maintain revenue but not to lose customers. The importance of providing safe and efficient school transport was also touched upon.
“The big issue in the MENA region is that we have cheap oil which has pushed against public transport for decades but congestion is something we need to deal with whatever the oil price,” said Eng. Khalid Alhogail, Chairmain of the UITP MENA Region and CEO-Board Director of Saudi Public Transport Company. “Here we see the challenge because we need to build big networks in a very short time and cities are becoming crowded and congested because of an absence of transport.”