Since 1851, World Expos have been a major driving force for modernisation in the host cities. In 1880, when Australia had only 2.2 million inhabitants, a staggering 1.3 million people flocked to Melbourne! The event boosted the city’s growth, its industrial activity and its tram network, which is still the most extensive in the world to date. A few years later, in 1929, it was hosted by Barcelona. The city sought to establish itself as a prime destination for major international trade fairs and underwent a transformation that included building two monumental buildings for the new França train station, creating paved avenues with modern lighting, and opening its first metro lines. The phenomenon was repeated on all continents: for Montreal, 1967 was the year of the Expo and the inauguration of the metro; in 2000, Hanover invested in public transport (high-speed train, metro, new airport terminal) to transport visitors; Shanghai, which hosted the Universal Expo in 2010, was transformed, with four new metro lines.
Of course, exhibitions are first and foremost a great showcase for the “latest” innovations. Every era has its iconic technologies. The very first Parisian metro line was not the only attraction of the 1900 Exposition: over 6 million onlookers used the “rue de l’Avenir”, a moving walkway built on a 7-metre-high viaduct, which enabled them to travel 3.5 kilometres in just 26 minutes. In 1967, Montreal took visitors on board the highly ‘futuristic’ Expo Express, a computer-guided metro. In Shanghai, the electric car was put in the spotlight. The city invited world leaders to showcase their innovations in “green” cars. As for Expo 2020 Dubai, venue accessibility and autonomous vehicle displays showcase the potential of the inclusive mobility of tomorrow.
"Riyadh's automated metro will help ease congestion and curb pollution"
What is the unique feature of the soon-to-be-commissioned Riyadh metro?
D. L. It is the first ever public transport network of this size in Riyadh! In ten years, the city will have a state-of-the-art fully automated metro system, with 6 lines serving 84 stations spanning 176 kilometres. This corresponds to 25% of the Paris metro, which was built over a span of 120 years. Together with our Saudi partner SAPTCO, we were chosen to operate lines 1 and 2 – the main lines of the new network – for 12 years.
How will it help transform the face of the Saudi capital?
D. L. It will play an essential role in daily life, not only for the inhabitants by linking densely populated areas and public and private facilities, but also for the economic development of the city, by linking the international airport to the financial district.
Combined with the new bus network, the metro will offer an alternative to the private car and relieve congestion in the city, thus curbing pollution. It will therefore contribute to Riyadh’s competitiveness by improving the lifestyle of its inhabitants, in line with the Vision 2030 plan initiated by the Kingdom’s authorities.