Leaders in Rail: Samer Tamimi, Hill International

Samer Tamimi, head of rail and infrastructure, Hill International, reveals why Hill is preparing for a potential rail boom in the GCC

INTERVIEWS, SPECIAL REPORTS, Projects, GCC region, Hill International, Rail, Rail construction, Rail construction gcc

Which regional rail projects is hill currently working on?

At present, we have two main projects under construction in the GCC – the Doha Metro and the Riyadh Metro.

We are providing project management services in connection with construction of Qatar’s Green Line – one of four lines of the new Doha Metro transit system. Phase 1 of the project involves construction of a 19km track with 15km of track located underground.

Hill is also providing project management and construction management services for the $28bn Riyadh Metro project – overseeing the design and construction for Package 3 of the rail development. Package 3 consists of managing three rail lines in the Riyadh Metro system. It includes Lines 5 and 6, which covers 67km of track with 48km of elevated alignment, 5.5km of mined tunnel, 22 stations, and almost 13kms of bored tunnel, constructed through some of the most congested districts in Riyadh.

What challenges, if any, are affecting Hill at the moment?

Every company is always faced with challenges, even if we exclude factors such as the ongoing slump in oil prices.

Locating the right resources, attracting talent, and mobilising it to Saudi Arabia is probably the single biggest challenge that we are facing at present.

However, for a company like Hill International with its worldwide reputation, it’s not as difficult to attract those resources, but those working in the rail sector are normally placed in remote areas. We need to find ways of making these roles attractive to the talent we are looking to hire.

How would you say oil prices are affecting the rail sector?

The slump in oil prices will probably have an impact on the sector, but not in the priority or scaling of those projects.

Rail projects are vital for this region. There are many that are already overdue and of course, there are strategic needs for these to be completed – for example, to connect all the GCC countries and to allow the transportation of not only passengers but also of goods. Recently, the Saudi minister of transportation also clearly stated that there will be no change in the Kingdom’s plans for the implementation of transport projects.

Do you think we currently have the expertise here in the GCC to develop the rail system?

Lots of resources and expertise have recently moved to the Middle East. Of course, lots of experience was gained through the Dubai Metro, as well as lots of lessons learnt, which will be avoided when implementing the various other rail systems which are currently under construction in the region.

On a whole, there is a lot of expertise in the region, but there is also room for more.

Does Hill have long-term plans in place for the rail sector?

The rail business is one of the sectors we are working to expand in. We are putting substantial emphasis and resources into this sector, because over the next 20 years, there will be a constant flow of rail projects in the region. We are talking thousands of kilometres – not just a few hundred – so it is an exciting time for the rail industry.

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