Doha’s New Public Transport Backbone

How innovative design and engineering approaches are taking shape in Qatar’s capital

The new Doha Metro Network, the key component of the Qatar Integrated Railway Project (QIRP) will serve as the backbone of the public transport system in the Greater Doha Area (GDA). Phase One is planned to include around 35 stations and Phase Two, around 60 stations.

The full network will comprise four lines connecting the GDA as well as the Al Khor, and Al Wakrah-Mesaieed communities located north and south of Doha respectively. The goal of the QIRP is to create a service which encourages the use of public transportation as a valid alternative to private transportation for the population of Doha.

The Population Burden
Arjan Dingsté, associate director/senior architect at the architectural office of UNStudio explains: “Urbanisation is an intensive ongoing process – especially in the Middle East. In Qatar, the population has grown by 15% this year and is likely to grow by the same rate again next year.

“This growth places a heavy burden on existing traffic networks in Doha, and the new Metro – part of the larger Qatar Integrated Railway Project – is urgently needed to relieve that pressure.”

Modular Approach
As consulting engineers to UNStudio, we have two specific roles on the project; structural design and MEP Services – assisting UNStudio with feasibility verification. Dingsté again, “With support from Royal HaskoningDHV, we’ve been able to secure the technical aspects of the modular approach of the architectural branding, and better guide our design and build contractors - providing them with a clear library of components to secure the architectural brand image selected  by Qatar Rail.”

The design aims to create a series of identities for the network, lines and stations. An architectural brand manual was developed to ensure certain spatial qualities were achieved, and the modular approach was taken to speed the build.

Senior Consulting Engineer Janko Arts: “Matching the architects’ modular concept, we proposed basic engineering systems and generic structural solutions with feasibility for each different station type, and then did the same for MEP Services; proposing generic systems for each elevated, ground-level and underground station.”

The Karst Phenomenon
But whilst the innovative modular systems make for simplicity, Qatar’s geology complicates some of the structural approaches. The Karst phenomenon is a geological feature in which water dissolves limestone causing potholes in the subsoil that can vary from a few millimetres to several metres in size.

Arts again: “This phenomenon seriously influences the foundation design of the stations and the measures we need to take in creating the temporary building pits. Karst is widespread on the Qatari peninsula – a small country, but with more than 9,700 known caves, depressions and exposed sinkholes.”

Logistical Challenges
Creating a large and complex public transport system in a densely populated city poses other challenges too. Designing the upper floors and shelter structure for the Msheireb flagship station proved puzzling, “Three lines come together at Msheireb station all from different directions,” explains Project Manager Maarten Faber, “The station lies within the densely built inner city next to the Msheireb development area. Solving all the set preconditions here proved challenging, particularly in locating bearing landing points for the vaulted roof without causing interference in logistics, aesthetics, fire safety and buildability.”

Arjan Dingsté has the final word: “Good design and sound engineering are vital components of sustainable urban transport systems.  But ultimately, full integration of all transportation modalities is vital for cities in order to realise smart transport systems. Investment and coordination will be needed, but integration is at the heart of future urban growth and prosperity.”

For more information on this project, please contact Janko Arts, [email protected] or Maarten Faber, [email protected]