Leaders in Rail: Louay Dahmash, Autodesk ME

Louay Dahmash, head of Autodesk Middle East, shares his views on the GCC’s developing rail sector, and reveals how Autodesk plans to develop its building information modelling (BIM) services in the region

INTERVIEWS, SPECIAL REPORTS, Projects, Autodesk

What are Autodesk’s main projects in the rail sector at present?

Qatar Rail awarded the Building Information Modelling (BIM) services contract to Autodesk. We will provide BIM implementation, consultancy, and advisory services for the construction of the modern integrated railway network in the country.

How would you describe the rail sector in the GCC at present?

These are exciting times for the rail industry in the Middle East.

The region is currently witnessing high activity from Africa’s first high-speed rail network in Morocco to Oman’s first ever rail scheme, which has resulted in the entry of billions of dollars into the now-flourishing regional rail sector.

Almost every country in the region has announced the implementation of projects, with some already under construction and others in the planning stages.

The most ambitious project of all is the planned GCC railway which will eventually link all six GCC stages from Kuwait City in the north to the Omani capital, Muscat, in the east.

What are the major challenges facing the rail industry at present?

The rail industry is faced with several challenges due to the region’s massive growth potential.

When contemplating the design of stations, high temperatures and the lack of pedestrian infrastructure also need to be addressed. High-speed rail requires straight alignments in order to maintain speed.

Developed areas may have difficulty identifying suitable corridors, resulting in compromises on speed, substantial property takings, or extensive tunnelling – with the latter two adding to the project’s total cost and schedule.

The demand for [additional] transport solutions in the region is critical, and as traffic congestion continues to grow, public transportation networks will become even more essential.

How has the global oil slump impacted the rail sector?

There have been considerable investments across the GCC countries to support their economic diversification strategies, which continue to remain upbeat with a clearer focus on expanding the growth opportunities beyond the remit of oil operations alone.

The regional construction industry is forecast to see growth from 2015-2018.

As such, the GCC governments’ challenge to diversify their economics from oil and gas, and their consistent focus on infrastructure development, has kept the construction industry – and rail sector – in focus so far.

Do we have the skilled expertise required to develop the rail industry in the GCC?

Amidst the presence of strong will and able financing, there still remains a big challenge in the upskilling of qualified engineers in the region to solve the problems presented by building mass transit systems in countries with little or no heritage of rail expertise.

Autodesk understands this challenge and aims to address it as well. Our strategy is to increase engagement with the region’s universities, focussing primarily on the civil side, rather than on the systems.

How do you see your company developing over the next five years in the rail industry?

With over $50 bn worth of rail expansion projects planned or underway in the Middle East, the adoption of BIM solutions for railways will help deliver sustainable, safer assets in a shorter time.

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