Qatar needs to increase focus on the long-term serviceability of its infrastructure
When it comes to the maintenance and management of highways in Qatar, the country has to deal with the challenge of working on a highway network that is constantly changing and developing as Qatar updates its road infrastructure, so explains Richard Allen, business director, Qatar, Amey Consulting, in an interview with QCN’s editor Farwa Zahra.
Tell us about Amey, your major service areas and your presence in Qatar and the Middle East?
Amey is one of today’s leading international multidisciplinary engineering consultants and public services providers, managing the vital infrastructure that we all rely on. We are headquartered in the United Kingdom (UK) with over 22,000 employees across the globe. We drive value across an array of asset portfolios including roads, railways, and utilities networks, buildings, airports, smart cities, and other transport hubs. Our whole-life interest in asset management extends from advisory and design services, through to performance monitoring to the management of asset operation and use. Our customers can choose from a variety of integrated or standalone solutions across the full range of our services.
With the support of our global parent company, Ferrovial, we are making our mark internationally. We have successfully delivered intelligent infrastructure asset management and consultancy across the UK, Australia, Qatar and the United States of America.
“Qatar proactively embraces the latest technologies and international best practice in the operation and maintenance of its highway networks.”
Qatar is our primary focus for the Middle East, and we have made Doha our regional headquarters, where we have recently obtained Engineering Registration – First Category (Civil). Over time, we will look for other opportunities in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, but our primary target is to firmly establish ourselves as a market leader for the asset management of infrastructure in Qatar.
Please share details about the highway network management services you are providing in Qatar?
In 2012, we began working with Qatar’s Public Works Authority (Ashghal) in a key advisory and design role for the operation and maintenance of the country’s roads. Working collaboratively with our client, we deliver a world-leading highway network management service, using our expertise to help them better understand their road assets and how best to operate them. With our help and knowledge transfer, Ashghal is able to make informed, long-term decisions about building, managing and maintaining its highway network to improve the experience of the general public using the Qatari road network.
Apart from works with Ashghal, is Amey delivering any other projects in Qatar? What are your growth expectations for the coming years?
Amey initially came to Qatar using a branch registration to deliver services for Ashghal’s Contract 4a. After successfully establishing the contract and realising the potential added value that Amey was able to offer clients in Qatar, we decided to establish a local engineering business. This means that we are now able to pursue new opportunities with a variety of government and non-government clients.
We are actively seeking clients and projects where we can leverage Amey’s extensive experience in asset and infrastructure management and operations. Sectors such as roads, rail, utilities, smart cities, ports, and aviation are our key areas of focus where we can demonstrate proven global experience.
What is your perception of the general condition of roads and highways network in Qatar? Compared to other markets, how soon will they require maintenance?
We have seen the overall condition of the highway network within Qatar improve during our time here. There are several factors driving this change, some of which might not be apparent to the general public. We have worked with Ashghal to ensure that robust inspection and maintenance regimes have been developed, utilising the latest asset management and mobile technologies to identify issues or future improvement works, prioritise them, and track their completion. This is all supported by a dedicated customer service team that provides the direct link between customers and operations on the road network.
“We have seen the overall condition of the highway network within Qatar improve during our time here.”
The standard of newly-constructed infrastructure projects has improved significantly over recent years, thanks to initiatives within Ashghal. We are working with multiple stakeholders to ensure that newly-built assets are handed over from construction into maintenance to the highest standards, through a variety of robust processes, procedures and knowledge transfer activities. This leads to the development of highway networks better able to serve the needs of the citizens of Qatar.
What are the main issues that you face in maintenance and management of highways in Qatar?
We see two key challenges that face the maintenance and management of highways in Qatar. The first is a constantly changing and developing highway network that is still under construction. We are working with Ashghal to implement various approaches to manage the disruption by taking best practice from our international highways management business.
We also need to be prepared for the challenges of a major event such as the 2022 World Cup and the demand this will place on the highway network. We have been offering support to Qatar using our knowledge and experience of large-scale event management and management of travel disruption, in particular, the London Olympics 2012.
How has your experience been of working with local teams in Qatar? What value do they bring to the team and what expertise do expatriates bring in general?
The ultimate aim of our current project with Ashghal is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and international best practice. We have successfully achieved this by bringing Amey subject matter experts, primarily from the UK, to Qatar to work with our client’s local team. Through our dedicated in-country HR change management professionals, we have structured a programme of training and knowledge transfer. At the end of the current contract, it is our goal to be able to leave the organisation in a position where it is able to self-sufficiently manage future challenges.
With the unprecedented rainfall throughout 2015/16 and subsequent flooding, how has customer safety been prioritised and congestion minimised?
We are supporting the development and delivery of the Ashghal Severe Weather Plan, Incident Response Action Plans, and emergency staff training, to respond more effectively to flooding and other incidents on the network. This has been delivered by emergency teams working 24/7 with appropriate resources, including key traffic management equipment which informs and directs the travelling public to alternative routes to avoid lengthy delays and potential hazards. As a result of this management function, the response times have improved and customer complaints reduced.
How advanced is Qatar in terms of solutions and technologies in the world of road/highway operations and maintenance?
We believe that Qatar proactively embraces the latest technologies and international best practice in the operation and maintenance of its highway networks. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to drive and support several solutions during our time working with Ashghal. Initiatives such as the implementation of Enterprise Asset Management System (EAMS) give Ashghal a unique insight into the behaviour and performance of its infrastructure assets across the country. This facilitates the ability to make smarter and more informed decisions on the operation and maintenance of the road network.
Integration of technologies to enable a better road user experience will become increasingly important over the next few years, as technology advances. The key will be to ensure that we use not only the latest expertise at our disposal but that we can also accommodate the integration of rapidly developing new technologies.
What do you see as the long-term role for an international firm such as Amey in Qatar?
Qatar is currently in the process of constructing a significant amount of new infrastructure assets across the country. Not surprisingly, the main focus for most client organisations and other firms has been on construction-related activities. At Amey, we see the need to increase focus on ensuring the long-term serviceability of the existing and newly created infrastructure, through intelligent and robust approaches to the implementation of asset management principles and tools.
We see knowledge transfer to the local workforce as a priority so that the local community is able to manage the asset long after the international firms have delivered their contracts, promoting self-reliance and generally making Qatar a better place to live, work and travel.