Muscat desperately needs mass urban transport system to cope with increasing personal car use
Metro and light rail in Muscat should be considered as a long-term solution as they take time to build. Instead, it would be better to take up the bus rapid transit (BRT) services which are quick and easy to set up.
A modern, energy-efficient mode of public transport system for Oman is the need of the hour, said Anthony Pearce, honorary life member and former director-general of the Geneva-based International Road Federation.
Speaking on 'Building and rehabilitating Oman's road network' at the Oman Transport infrastructure Summit yesterday, Anthony Pearce observed, "Over the last decade the road network in the Sultanate has developed rapidly. The total length of roads has gone up by 44 per cent between 2004 and 2009. The proportion of the network that is paved has risen from 37 per cent in 2004 to 46 per cent in 2009. Billions of Omani rials have been invested into roads that traverse through mountains and tough terrains.-
Talking about the current Five-Year Plan, the road expert said that $3.2 billion is being invested in the road network which includes the dualing of Ibri-Jibrin road at a cost of RO73 million, dualing of Nizwa-Thumrait road (RO250 million); construction of the third lane at the intersection of Al Mualih-Bait Al Barkah (RO32.4 million); addressing traffic congestion in Al Burj road in Ruwi (RO25.5 million); developing the road network in Muscat Governorate (RO24 million); Wadi Hyat (Al Hamra-Wadi Bani Auwf road phase 2 (RO13.6 million); dualing of Bidbid-Sur road first and second phases (RO240 million); Al Batinah express road (RO250 million); raising efficiency of Sinaw-Mahout-Duqum road (RO80 million); Al Batinah coastal road phase 3 (RO200 million) and the internal paving of roads in various wilayats at a cost RO44.8 million.
"In April 2012, 11 agreements worth $411.8 million were signed including Al Batinah Expressway (45.5km) at a cost of $361.3 million; a tarmac road from Qumaira to Hail Al Khanabsha (21km) at a cost of $26 million; Dhank-Al Khabib road (12km) at a cost of $11.7 million; and rehabilitation of Wadi Qurayat road (21km) at a cost of $3.1 million. By 2016, it is hoped that all these mega projects will be operative. This will contribute greatly to Oman's economic development by boosting trade and economic activities, and providing jobs,- he added.
Anthony averred that the main challenges lie in integration of transport system. "Focus should be on provision of good public transport, road safety, making most of the investment in infrastructure. Integration is required to reduce the pollution from transport, improve air quality, encourage healthy lifestyles by reducing reliance on cars, reduce noise and vibration from transport,- he said.
Anthony further said, "Apart from taxis, the only form of public transport in the Sultanate is the coach and bus service provided by Oman National Transport Co. Public transportation in Muscat does not include rail and bus services are limited in their route coverage. The lack of public transport has meant that far too many people use cars. There are around 200 cars per thousand and bearing in mind that three in four Omanis live in cities.-
"With a good urban transport service the number of car journeys could be cut and road safety improved. Public transport should include good air-conditioned bus service with air-conditioned bus stops as in Dubai,- he added.
He added that the provision of efficient public transport system is a must as rapid growth of Muscat in recent years and expansion of city boundaries to provide homes, work places and other facilities, acute shortage of parking and expansion of Muscat accompanied by changes in the employment and residential pattern resulting in a significant increase in number of vehicles, trips and commuting will be taken care of.'