Managing Director and CEO of Qatar Rail H.E. Dr. Abdulla bin Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Subaie said that the company's preparations for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ are a years-long effort that started in 2010 when planning for the Doha Metro project commenced, while taking into account all requirements for a world-class metro network that serves not only the World Cup but as a legacy for future generations and the city of Doha.
During a series of interviews that were conducted by journalist Abdullah Al Muslemani for the 'Ahlan bel Alam' (Hello World) program on Qatar TV and hosted Qatar Rail's senior and executive management officials, H.E. pointed out that Qatar Rail's current level of preparedness is the result of many years of hard work and tireless efforts by the company's workforce across its various specializations and divisions, in addition to being the product of a range of drills and scenarios that were tested and implemented during several sports events, most notably the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup™.
He added: “The metro stations, whether in terms of their spaciousness or the number of entrances available, took into account accommodating any expected influx of crowds during major events. This goes beyond the stations themselves and includes trains, whose number has been increased from 75 to 110 and are now ready for continuous service during the World Cup. Large teams at Qatar Rail have also put in place all the measures necessary for the tournament."
H.E. underlined the importance of preparations, training, and drills implemented during the past years, where the metro network was put to the test on several occasions and many lessons were learned to improve and develop systems, train employees and staff, and boost preparedness levels through procedural guidelines, command and control systems, periodic maintenance, and equipment that have been upgraded and improved.
H.E. explained that these preparations have contributed to the implementation of operational plans, the latest of which took place during the Lusail Super Cup™ in September and a recent musical concert at Lusail Stadium that saw the transportation of around 39,000 people to and from the stadium. This comes within the framework of the World Cup preparations in collaboration with partners and stakeholders such as the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Mowasalat (Karwa), and the Transportation Security Department at the Ministry of Interior (MoI), among others.
The Managing Director and CEO of Qatar Rail added: “We are witnessing high demand on the Doha Metro network and we urge fans and customers to plan ahead their journeys to and from stadiums and other destinations in Doha city. Through the official social media accounts of Qatar Rail, the Ministry of Transport, and relevant authorities, information is being made available on alternative means of transportation so that fans can plan and choose the ones that are most suitable for them."
Al-Sulaiti: The metro serves fans 21 hours a day with shorter train headway times
Trains' operational capacity increased & over 5,000 additional staff to serve the tournament
Eng. Abdulla Saif al-Sulaiti, Chief of Service Delivery at Qatar Rail, reaffirmed that the company's employees across divisions and departments are working around the clock to ensure the preparedness of Doha Metro to serve fans of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Al-Sulaiti explained that according to Doha Metro's operational plan for the tournament, the network will operate 21 hours a day from Saturday to Thursday, from 6 am to 3 am.
He said: “Due to the huge crowds expected during the tournament, Qatar Rail has increased its operational capacity by integrating additional trains into the network, with trains merged to increase the number of train cars from three to six. This doubles the 500-passengers-per-train capacity to reach more than a thousand people per trip."
As part of the preparations for the tournament, all employees of the company are on high alert to ensure that the operational plan is implemented in the best possible manner. The number of technical as well as organizational staff has also been increased by more than 5,000 additional employees to serve the network during the World Cup tournament.
According to Al-Sulaiti, train headway times across the network's three lines will be optimized and reduced during the tournament over the course of the 21 daily hours of service.
He pointed out that although the service hours will be 21 hours a day, work will continue round the clock throughout the day, especially since after the stations' opening hours and the return of trains to their depot, periodic daily maintenance is carried out in order to ensure their safety and readiness for service the next day with the same efficiency required to transport a large number of passengers.
Al-Sulaiti pointed out that the ground service staff – who will be present at the stations to serve the fans flocking to the network, especially at stadium- and fan-zone-connected stations as well as major stations located in downtown Doha – will work diligently to ensure the network's efficiency by managing and organizing crowds in and around stations to maintain passengers' flow and provide a safe and seamless travel experience for all.
Al Ansari: the most advanced and reliable metro system in the world
Backup systems equipped for emergencies to ensure operational continuity
On the infrastructure systems of the metro network, Eng. Jassim Mohammed Al Ansari, Chief of Program Delivery at Qatar Rail, said: “Qatar Rail has 4 key pillars and objectives that we have accounted for, even before initiating any action on systems' selection, namely safety, reliability, sustainability, and the quality and efficiency of those systems. All of the objectives were derived from the Qatar National Vision 2030, which was launched in 2008."
Al Ansari noted that it was taken into account that all systems used are highly sophisticated and reliable.
He added that signaling systems that control train operation are some of the most modern and advanced in the world and are characterized by being highly reliable and ready. All trains are driverless, operate at a speed of 80 kilometers per hour, and are connected to quality-of-service monitoring systems.
Al Ansari pointed out the importance of the network's communication systems in organizing and regulating communication between devices, trains, control rooms, and service centers, among other systems, in addition to the systems used in maintenance operations that provide real-time data on the status of trains, systems, and infrastructure or any malfunction to provide a quick response to any emergency. This is in addition to the systems used to monitor and supervise the quality of the systems on the premises, which are connected to air conditioning systems, pumps, and other equipment to detect any defects and take the necessary action.
Al-Ansari explained that for the World Cup preparations, the reliability of the metro network has been tested over the course of more than 3 years, and that software systems are constantly updated, especially since the various infrastructure systems used within the network are upgradable and scalable when needed.
He added: "For instance, as part of the preparations for the World Cup, the number of AFC gates at the stations has been increased and they continue to work efficiently without any technical problems experienced as a result of the additional installations. The number of trains in the fleet has also been increased with additional trains to support the hosting of major events, including the World Cup, with a number of trains currently in operation while other service-ready trains are held in the depot."
Al-Ansari noted that backup systems are in place and are available when needed or in the case of any emergency, such as the metro's Integrated Control Center (ICC) in Al Wakra, which has another backup center in a different location equipped with the same systems and is neither electronically nor geographically connected to the main system currently in operation. This ensures that in the event of a malfunction or emergency in the main system, the backup control center maintains operational processes without incurring any damages.
He pointed out that all the main system lines in the rail network's infrastructure are equipped with more than one power supply source to ensure the continuity of service in the event of any emergency, and that many tests and drills have been conducted for thousands of systems since the operation of the network commenced.
Baldwin: Integrated Control Center ensures the safety & security of the network & customers
Integrated security monitoring around the clock to ensure systems are functioning as required
Mr. Len Baldwin, Operations Director at RKH Qitarat, the operator of the Doha Metro, said that the control room located at the headquarters of the metro's ICC features a centralized system that is subject to monitoring and control and focuses on ensuring the safety and security of customers and the network.
Baldwin added: “On the safety front, this is a fully automated fourth-generation network that is the most advanced in the world, where all functions are monitored from the ICC via monitoring screens in which the levels of power supply, signaling systems, and all service-related information are monitored. In terms of security, there are many existing security surveillance cameras and screens and the center also covers all aspects related to customer service, whether visible at stations or running behind the scenes, in addition to the fact that all trains are monitored using security surveillance cameras."
He explained that the center has an integrated security control room where the security team works around the clock to monitor the network and ensure the security of the network and its customers as well as the functioning of all systems required to serve customers.
He pointed out that for the convenience of customers, and based on the fact that data and service information are extremely important to them, the center works to analyze and continuously update data and information in order to provide world-class service to the network's customers on a daily basis.
Testa: Integrated communication channels to facilitate the journey & experience of FWC fans
Necessary information provided to the public in a convenient manner
Mr. Gianluca Testa, Sales and Customer Service Director at Qatar Rail, said that preparations for the World Cup ensure that customers receive all the information they need through various communication channels available at all stations during their journey, using visual and simplified messages that are easy to understand and comprehend to help customers for whom English and Arabic may not be the native language.
Testa elaborated: “For example, a special campaign on the Doha Metro and Lusail Tram social media accounts was launched and includes various messages such as service updates, operating hours, and changes to the entry and exit management processes at stations in order to support the operational management plans of the network."
He explained that the campaign provides customers with all information of interest including journey-related tips and suggestions, how to use the Hayya Card at metro and tram stations, how to avail of special prices during the tournament for non-cardholders, as well as information on luggage policy and restrictions, and a comprehensive range of relevant information.
Testa pointed out that in Qatar Rail's pursuit to facilitate access to relevant information for passengers, a simplified communication channel has been provided through the use of a scannable QR code available at stations and digital screens so that customers can receive all the information that facilitates their access to different destinations during the tournament such as stadium guides, the metro network map, main destinations near the stations, and more.
He continued: “This will provide access to all information related to retail units and shops available at the stations as it is important for customers to know the types of services available at each station, as well as the main destinations connected to the station and the expected walking distances between stations when a station is busier than usual. This is designed to facilitate transportation for fans and visitors so that they can enjoy their experience of Doha during the months of November and December."
Testa pointed out that in addition to the aforementioned communication channels, customers can refer to the Qatar Rail official website, the Qatar Rail app, or the Hayya application launched by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which serves as the main information channel for our customers, as well as the digital screens available on board the metro and tram trains and at the stations that display the same information, which is broadcasted on various other communication channels.
He noted that information can also be obtained by contacting the customer service center on 105, which works around the clock, or through customer service representatives present at the stations who cater to passengers' information requests.
Hanauer: Crowd and queue management systems to ensure the safety of the crowds
Expected waiting time outside stations ranges from 5 to more than 60 minutes
Mr. Raimund Hanauer, Director of Transport Planning at Qatar Rail, said that, given that safety is always a priority for the company, special operational plans have been developed for each of the network's 37 metro stations, as well as the seven tram stations that are currently operational, with the aim of managing as many customers as possible during the World Cup.
He added: “We expect the arrival of unprecedented numbers of passengers, and even though our entire fleet is operational, there will be times when demand will exceed our capacity and our only option is to organize and manage crowds outside the stations. To this end, crowd and queue management systems have been put in place, which customers must follow when entering stations to ensure the safety of everyone and avoid congestion inside stations and trains."
He continued: “These queues will be supervised by our well-trained and qualified staff, and will also be organized and monitored through the control room in order to reduce waiting times as much as possible, especially since the expected waiting period will range from five minutes to an hour or more, depending on the service time. During off-peak times, we are expecting waiting times to be very short and customers may not have to wait at all, but during peak hours in the afternoon when the majority of passengers are trying to reach downtown or in the late evening when most people are going back home, waiting times will be longer."
Hanauer advised fans wishing to travel during peak times to leave extra time when planning their journey in advance in order to reach their destination on time, while going early to the stadium to enjoy the vibes rather than being late for the match.
Screen: An integrated command and control center for rapid intervention & emergency response
Sufficient staff present at stations to assist and guide the fans
Mr. David Karl Screen, Operation and Maintenance Director at Qatar Rail, said that Doha Metro operates a state-of-the-art rail network.
He added: “Based on the fact that the Doha Metro network is one of the best and most modern in the world, the network has been designed to serve future generations. Our stations and their hallways, as noted by all our customers, are very spacious and have been built and designed to accommodate numbers of passengers that far exceed the current patronage. The train network is fully automated, which enhances our ability to increase its capacity and the number of trains operating, and this translates into the transportation of a larger number of passengers than usual when needed."
He pointed out that all the operational systems of the network are integrated with alarm systems and other automated systems in place to monitor and ensure security, safety, and reliability of service across the network. In addition to the modern technologies used, sufficient and well-trained staff serve the network, and over the past few months, around 4,000 additional customer service staff have been appointed to support in serving customers and fans during the tournament.
Screen explained that fans using the network on a daily basis during the tournament will have a sufficient number of employees to help and guide them through implementing crowd management processes, organizing queues, and monitoring security, in addition to other public services to support and assist the fans.
He noted that one of the distinctive aspects of the services provided by Qatar Rail's well-trained staff is the initiative to provide immediate assistance to fans and customers without waiting for them to request help.
Screen said that in the context of ensuring that all systems work together as required, an integrated command and control center was set up to monitor all processes and aspects related to the train network, such as station congestion, service reliability, security, and more.
He added that the command and control center is linked to the main coordination center for the World Cup, which monitors all tasks and operations related to transportation in Doha, and this allows rapid intervention in the case of any emergency or malfunction within the country's transportation system. For example, if there is a problem with bus services, the train network can handle a heavier load and vice versa.
Screen continued: “The most important thing about this type of transportation system is our ability to spread messages and announcements in ways that the fans can rely on so that they can plan their journeys accordingly and enjoy the tournament and its cheerful vibes."