How Qatar’s transport system is coping with huge influx of fans

Inside the driver-less Doha Metro train

What you need to know:

  • Doha Metro, considered one of the most modern in the world, employs Kenyans as attendants
  • Doha Metro recorded a surge in commuter use last week, with 2,351,244 passengers being transported on its three lines - red, blue and gold

In Doha

Qatar can feel proud that its massive investment in transport is bearing fruits with the underground metro system and array of road networks ably coping with transport demands of hundreds of thousands of fans daily entering the tiny Gulf start for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

The Doha Metro, as it is officially known, recorded a surge in commuter use last week culminating in 2,351,244 passengers being transported on its three lines - red, blue and gold, which have a combined length of about 76 km, and 37 stations
This is according to a report in the official Qatar News Agency.

The Qatar Railways Company reported that the total number of metro users on the opening day of the World Cup on November 20 was 544,962 with a majority using the red line that terminates at Lusail, about 20 kilometres north of Doha.

The total users of the Lusail Tram that takes passengers to the Lusail Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium was 91,719. The tournament opener between hosts Qatar and the Netherlands was played at the Al Bayt Stadium.

I experienced first hand the efficiency of the Doha Rail on Thursday night when I was caught up by the rush of thousands of fans from the Portugal versus Ghana game played at Stadium 974 in the Ras Bu Abboud area.

The crowd suddenly built up as they reached the rail station from the stadium but thinned out in minutes and were soon no more thanks to the efficiency of Qatar’s railway transport as they were rapidly swallowed and ferried by the trains.

Trains arrive at two minutes intervals and can travel at speeds of over 100km. The Doha Rail trains are driverless. The Doha Metro is considered one of the most modern in the world.

The stations are spick and span, with attendants, many Kenyans, at hand to direct passengers where to go.

One particular Kenyan worker has become popular at the Souk Waqif station where, using a bullhorn, he directs people to the metro. "Metro, metro, hakuna matata” he bellows, much to the amusement of the pedestrians who can't help taking pictures of him.

All visitors in Qatar for the World Cup are allowed to use public transport for free as long as they have a Hayya card, a mandatory entry requirement, that acts as a visa, for the period the tournament will take place.

Qataris and residents of the country are charged Qatar Riyals (QR) 2 (about Sh67) per journey. However, purchase of trips is through a rechargeable card. The card costs QR10 (Sh336). No matter how many trips one makes a passenger can only be charged a maximum of QR6 (Sh201).

The metro closes at 3am and opens at 6am.

According to the Qatari Ministry of Transport, a total of 10,003 public bus trips were conducted on Wednesday, transporting 181,210 passengers. The bus services connect the metro stations and the World Cup venues.

Public bus transport company, Mosalat, has deployed 4,000 buses to transport fans in the tournament. They cannot be missed on the road in their violet shade with "World Cup Qatar 2022" emblazoned on their bodies.

"We bought all these buses for the World Cup and have had no issues so far. We are coping well," said Kenyan Ken Atunga, an operation supervisor with Mosalat.

Interestingly, even with the influx of visitors, traffic snarl-ups are an exception rather than rule on the Qatari roads.