A city’s success is directly linked to how it is used by the people who work or reside there.
Ray al redha crop
We see a correlation between a city’s ability to allow regular, seamless and easy movement of people and the measure of that city’s success, in the eyes of its inhabitants and others alike.
Worldwide, people have gravitated towards cities for jobs, security, habitation and trade. Urban density has increased at an inordinate rate over recent years. Cities are at the heart of some of the biggest challenges facing the engineering community.
Older cities face limitations as they seek to cope with such growth. Established transportation networks have finite scope for improvements across service, amenity and performance. The needs and wants of the city’s workers and residents must be addressed and engineered outside existing infrastructure and into the confines of the physical landscape.
Where space constraints exist or usable land is at a premium, unconventional and novel solutions can be entertained. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link adopted an alignment that used established transport corridors and regenerated the former St Pancras Terminal Station as the London terminus for its services. In Hong Kong, MTR Corporation has undertaken numerous complex projects where new stations and facilities are integrated into the existing network, all while running the existing services continuously. Given the complexities of such challenges, development requires undertaking large capital projects and significant investment.
Conversely, the urban landscape of a comparatively new city, such as Dubai, tends not to be inhibited by the same constraints. Here, the challenge lies in determining what constitutes a functioning urban transportation network, and what form it should take.
When prevailing trends are biased towards the motor vehicle, providing a viable and legitimate alternative requires a great deal of thought, planning and consideration. Often, the highway network acts as an inhibitor, and alternative modes of transportation must then be integrated with established systems, practices and norms.
The public transportation network of a new city still currently encompasses taxis, buses, trams and metros and the opportunity and challenge remain to fully and seamlessly integrate these services into the fabric of the urban landscape. A further challenge then lies in encouraging and incentivising their use in a way that the public transport network becomes the first and perhaps the only choice for future cities.
The Global Engineering Congress, featuring a dedicated cities stream in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, will bring together the global profession to tackle these challenges, sharing best practice from around the world. We are already experiencing rapid urbanisation and feeling the pressure to respond. As the trend intensifies, engineers need to be ready with innovative solutions to ensure sustainable and resilient development for the future.
● Ray Al Redha is ICE’s Middle East regional director