From Plan to Implementation: How Public Transport Work!

The UITP MENA Division organised its 2019 meeting and seminar in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia which was hosted by the Public Transport Authority (PTA) KSA. Under the theme From Plan to Implementation: Making Public Transport Work!, the program included several sessions that focused on key factors, including political will, proper organization, capacity building, and sustainable financing necessary for the success of public transport projects as well as highlighting the Saudi public transport program. The seminar was attended by more than 200 participants and 20 speakers from 8 countries.


HE Dr. Rumaih AL-RUMAIH, President of the Public Transport Authority launched the event by highlighting the important role of public transport as an integral part of the kingdom’s 2023 vision. This vision is clearly carried through with the establishment of the Public Transport Authority as the national organization streamlining public transport regulation, organization, and integration across the Kingdom. He emphasised the need to understand change and be part of it and to embrace technology.  He added that PTA is proud of its affiliation with UITP and see this partnership of great value to enrich expertise of young Saudi transport specialists.

On behalf of the UITP, Khalid ALHOGAIL, Chairman of the UITP MENA Division, delivered the official UITP welcome. He indicated that “the transport industry is like air and water; we feel it, but it is not commended.” There is huge investment in public transport projects across KSA and UITP plays an important role in supporting this development.

The keynote speaker for the event, Mohammed MEZGHANI, UITP Secretary General delivered a motivating speech titled Urban mobility is changing, public transport too. He highlighted the paradigm shift towards a shared economy, which is reshaping urban mobility and public transport. He was glad to see that PTA and UITP share the vision of improving quality of life. Since KSA has a fast growing urban population and mobility demand is increasing, development of mass transit is a must. He explained that with the redefinition of Public transport to include new mobility services, there is a need to focus on governance and business models.

Ayman Smadi, Director of the UITP MENA and CTE presented the division updates of 2017 – 2018. There has been a significant increase in the number of activities and participation from all members in the MENA. Events were held in Amman, Casablanca, Dubai, and Muscat. In the area of capacity building, there was a 40% increase in the number of training programmes offered in the past two years. The MENA Transport Congress and Exhibition in April 2018 featured an extensive program with more than 87 speakers and an exhibit featuring the latest development in public transport which was attended by close to 2,000 participants. He announced that the next congress is planned to be organised in 13 – 15 April 2020. Research highlights from the work of the MENA Centre for Transport Excellence were also highlighted, including the publication of the 2019 MENA Transport Report. The 2019-2020 UITP MENA Executive Board was announced and will officially be ratified at the UITP Global Summit next June.


Khalid ALHOGAIL chaired the Saudi project session which highlighted the ongoing public transport projects in the kingdom.  The Riyadh metro project is now 77% complete. The Saudi public transport market is fully open to foreign industry at all levels: rolling stock, systems, operations etc. The Makkah metro project is planned as a PPP. The Haramain High Speed Rail project, the biggest rail project in the MENA region, will be able to transport 60 million passengers between Makkah and Madinah per year.


In the session on Changing Urban Landscape, international experts highlighted 4 reactions of authorities towards the emergence of ride hailing services: Innovators, Adaptors, Protectors, and Regulators. The session also included experiences from Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

In the session on How to make it work?  The speakers explained that for public transport to deliver on its promises, it requires some key ingredients: political will, proper organization, and capacity building, to the most obvious, sustainable financing.

Key Takeaways

  1. We see a growing and steadfast focus on addressing urban mobility due to the continuing urbanization and increasing traffic congestions. This should ensure public transport is at the core of urban mobility policies.
  2. Public transport (As par tof the urban mobility system) is dealing with some key paradigm shifts, headlined by information technology, combined economy, and customer-oriented services.
  3. Saudi Arabia is witnessing a quantum leap in advancing public transport; the cornerstone of which is the establishment of the Public Transport Authority and strengthening its role in achieving the national vision as per international best practices. Mega public transport projects across the Kingdom will ensure travellers in Saudi cities have a real alternative and will enhance the quality of life for urban dwellers. Continued coordination is essential for ensuring integration among national and local transport plans as well as urban and land-use planning.
  4. With the exponential growth in new mobility services, integration with traditional public transport services is critical in order to ensure optimization of resources and ensuring the highest level of service to the customer.
  5. There is no single approach for ensuring the success of public transport, however the key is to adapt best practices to meet local conditions, as we have seen success stories from Dubai and Casablanca.


We would like to thank our sponsors Daimler Buses, ZF services Middle East and our local host Public Transport Authority for their support. We look forward to seeing you in the UITP MENA Bus Seminar in Cairo September 2019.