Muscat Metro pre-feasibility study to be completed this year

Oman Tuesday 04/June/2024 20:38 PM
By: Ashok Purohit

LEIPZIG: A provisional study into the feasibility of establishing a first-of-its-kind metro in Muscat Governorate is expected to be wrapped up before the end of this year, a key official told The Times of Oman.

Hamood Musabah Al Alawi, Metro Project Manager, who is also Head of Railways at the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, said the metro initiative will have a transformational impact on the city’s future development, provided it is suitably integrated into an efficient public transport system for the capital.

“There is no doubt that an integrated, reliable public transport network with Muscat Metro as the backbone is a necessity now in Muscat. It’s just a matter of what, how, how best we can bring that into reality,” he noted.

Speaking exclusively to this paper on the sidelines of the recently-concluded International Transport Forum in the German city of Leipzig where Oman was inducted as a member nation, Al Alawi said the Muscat Metro project, first unveiled at a media briefing by Eng Saeed bin Hamood Al Maawali, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, earlier this year, said the feasibility study will shed light on the future contours of this ground-breaking project.

“We are still at the pre-feasibility study stage, and one of the outcomes of it is actually a road map of the project going forward. So we will have to wait until the study finishes because then we can decide how to better execute it, whether in phases, whether in one go - It will make a big difference!”

But he appealed for public understanding and patience given the complex nature of the project, particularly as it navigates through congested, built-up parts of the city.

“A metro goes where there is congestion, so by default, it will go through a lot of interfaces and a lot of inhabited areas and where there are utilities. It’s not going to be a ‘walk in the park’. But these challenges (if left untackled) can cause the city to stagnate, reduce its competitiveness and productivity and so on.”

To ensure that the outcomes of the feasibility studies are far-reaching, the Muscat Metro project team is collaborating with all of the stakeholders involved. Notable is the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning, which is overseeing the implementation of the Greater Muscat Structure Plan (GMSP), a key component of which is the Muscat Metro.

Sharing details about the tentative milestones for the delivery of the initial studies, the official said the current pre-feasibility study is expected to be completed by around the end of this year. This will pave the way for the detailed feasibility and detailed financial studies, which typically take between 12 – 18 months. 

“(The timeframe) depends on how detailed we go, based on the direction we get from either the cabinet or also the leadership of the ministry. After all, this is a very prestigious project – one that every person in Oman is looking forward to. It will be a great enabler to all of the major developments that we have heard about, Sultan Haitham City, the new Al Khuwair Downtown, and so on. So Muscat Metro is extremely important.”

However, to meet the aspirations set out in the Greater Muscat plan, the Muscat Metro project should ideally be complemented by other means of public transport, the official stressed. At the same time, there should be concerted efforts to increase the uptake of public transport, notably by establishing a reliable, affordable and safe alternative to private cars, he said.

A range of challenges and issues will need to be tackled to promote the uptake of public transport, such as metro services, when they become operational, said Al Alawi. Climate conditions, particularly during the hot summer months, need to be taken into account.

Accessibility to network

“Accessibility to the network is also another issue. Do you have to walk for kilometers until you get there? How fast is the network? Is it going to go through the same traffic jams like the existing roads, for example? There are so many questions that the detailed studies will address.”

In designing an efficient metro system in Muscat, the project team will also learn from the examples of successful metro initiatives launched elsewhere in the GCC. Metros in Dubai, Doha and Riyadh will be keenly studied, so will public transport initiatives in Morocco, India and elsewhere, he said, adding that the design solution for Oman’s maiden metro will be essentially Omani in its essence.