Jackson ... infrastructure focus.

Railway projects support the vision of long-term sustainability by providing a transport solution that can reduce pollution and congestion, says ANDREW JACKSON, marketing director of SAS International*.

As reported in United Nations’ World Urbanisation Prospects: The 2014 revision, the continuing urbanisation and overall growth of the world’s population is projected to add 2.5 billion people to the urban population by 2050, with nearly 90 per cent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.

The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) have witnessed a process of rapid urbanisation; for example, urbanisation in Saudi Arabia increased from 48 per cent in the 1970s to around 80 per cent in 2000, and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has forecast that by 2025, around 88 per cent of the Saudi population would live in cities. Such growth has exerted great pressures on the transportation network, creating high traffic volumes and congestions.

In order to improve the quality of life and future-proof these quickly expanding cities, it is necessary to develop infrastructure, specifically a public transport system, to create efficient links between towns, cities and countries to support their economic development. Rail construction is seen as a sustainable transport solution that can reduce pollution and congestion, and facilitate access and mobility.

As announced by Oman’s Minister of Transport and Communications, the governments of the GCC countries are set to invest more than $200 billion in railway projects across the region. Such interconnectivity will not only attract companies, manufacturers, talent and capital to the region, it will also have a considerable impact on the environment, saving fuel and reducing carbon
dioxide emission.

Furthermore, with 25 million visitors expected to attend Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE, where the sustainability theme is one of the pillars of the event, development of sustainable infrastructure is at the top of the agenda. As part of the Smart City initiative launched last year, Dubai is planning to leverage the Internet of Everything to become one of the world’s most connected and sustainable cities, with the Expo as the platform for unveiling this vision.

Dubai Expo 2020 and the World Cup 2022 in Qatar are seen as opportunities for the Middle East to lead in eco-friendly construction and development, and all eyes are focused on the region to see how it responds to the demands dictated by these key cultural and sporting events.

Product manufacturers can help support the region in achieving environmental sustainability, while delivering a cost-efficient and viable infrastructure, by providing design-led products that will stand the test of time and last for decades.

Rapid urbanisation, population growth, businesses looking to grow outside of their original borders as well as demand for mobile talent bring with it an increasingly growing number of commuters, visitors and passengers to the region. Designing for the long term is a crucial part of creating buildings that are able to cater for future passenger demand and can handle the increased crowd pressure forecast in the coming years.

Having won contracts to supply metal solutions to the West Kowloon rail terminus in Hong Kong and Madinah station, part of the Haramain High Speed Rail project in Saudi Arabia, in 2014, SAS International has gained first-hand experience in supplying bespoke steel solutions to challenging projects. Demands such as increase in traffic and the effect of weather conditions means that durability and high-performance of materials are of utmost importance; steel, for example, easily copes with the abrasive sand, and provides a hard-wearing finish which can help reduce overall maintenance costs and keep surfaces looking new and attractive for longer.

These performance qualities need to be balanced with aesthetics in order to create outstanding buildings that will provide passengers with a superior travel experience and resonate with the cities’ efforts to position themselves as global destinations.

*SAS International is a British manufacturer of interior fit-out products, driven by delivering quality, innovation and providing maximum value to clients and specifiers worldwide. With more than 40 years’ experience, the company produces high-performance metal products including ceiling systems and architectural metalwork solutions.