Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalid Bin Jassim Al-Thani, Director of the Technical Affairs Department at the MOT Qatar: The Smart Way To Travel

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalid Bin Jassim Al-Thani, Director of the Technical Affairs Department at the Ministry of Transport, Qatar, explains how the country is developing an integrated travel network that commits to keep the nation moving towards a smart and sustainable future.

The transport sector plays a key role in driving any economy – be that through facilitating the movement of people, businesses, and resources or through supporting the tourism sector by turning a country into one where citizens, residents, and visitors can move between locations seamlessly. In Qatar, the transport sector has seen an incredible transformation, from expanding existing public bus services to launching new world-class metro and trams. In doing so, it has altered the way people travel and supported economic growth.

It is against this backdrop that the Ministry of Transport (MOT) has launched “Sila”, in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030. Arabic for “connection”, Sila is the brand that brings together Qatar’s transport services into one network, operated by the key transport providers in the country. These providers include Qatar Railways Company, Mowasalat (Karwa), Qatar Foundation, and Msheireb Properties.

Sila gives people the smartest choices for travel, supporting the country’s ongoing development. It aims to turn the integrated transport network into the preferred travel option in Qatar – seen as the smart choice by citizens, residents, and visitors. From a consumer perspective, Sila will benefit all those who live in and visit Qatar, meaning citizens, residents, and tourists, by making travel around the country easier and more convenient. Meanwhile, from a government or corporate perspective, a world-class, integrated transport network further strengthens Qatar’s position as a modern and vibrant country that is focused on building a strong transport infrastructure.

Aside from privately-owned vehicles, currently the transport network in Qatar includes the metro, bus, tram, and taxi. Over the coming months, Sila will bring them together by integrating payment across transport modes and offering several new services such as a journey planner and all public transport information under one roof on its app and website. This will streamline traveling around the country, encouraging and empowering people to use the integrated transport network more frequently.

To make the most of Qatar’s impressive transport network, the Ministry encourages all those who live in and visit the country to follow the Sila social media pages for the latest information about transport services. This information has proven especially helpful during major events. For example, during the recent FIFA Arab Cup 2021, Sila communicated on the integrated transport routes to and from the stadiums and retweeted live updates from the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – the organization in charge of delivering FIFA tournaments in the country.

Critical to Sila’s success is cutting-edge technology. Sila harnesses technology to improve transport services and encourage their use – ultimately benefiting the country from an economic, environmental, and social perspective. Sila’s app and website will feature useful, tech-driven functions such as a journey planner to help travelers select the times, transport modes, and routes that suit them best, using step-by-step directions, with the app providing real time navigation. Other functionalities include a flight tracker, information about public transport station locations, routes, and timetables, and in the future, the option to pay and top up a traveler’s account for trips.

The Qatari MOT has worked closely with GBM, a Qatar-based digital solution provider, to design, build, integrate, test, and deploy the Sila app and website, and the integrated fare collection system. Technologies and innovations used include the IBM MobileFirst for better and secure interaction with transportation customers; the IBM DataPower Gateway, a purpose-built security and integration platform for the Sila mobile application and portal; and the Integrated Automated Fare Structure Collection System.

These innovations will streamline the overall travel experience by providing information and contactless payment options across the transport network. Along the way, the MOT will continue to work with its partners and suppliers to ensure that the systems are continuously maintained and updated, as needed, to provide the best possible experience for all those that use the integrated transport network in Qatar.

Alongside technology, sustainability is also a cornerstone of Sila’s development. Qatar recognizes that sustainability should lie at the core of the country’s growth and development. From a transport perspective, private car usage is the dominant travel choice for many people; however, the carbon emissions from private transport contribute heavily to climate change.

By integrating Qatar’s transport network, Sila empowers travelers to choose more sustainable and environmentally friendly transport modes such as the use of public transport and walking. It also complements existing travel services such as ‘Park and Ride’, where parking spaces are provided near key metro stations. This in turn minimizes private car usage and contributes towards a greener future for generations to come.

Already, Sila is beginning to play a part in nurturing a sustainable and smart future. The first phase of Sila saw the launch of the brand’s social media pages, which will become the hub for all integrated transport network news and updates. Looking ahead, the project’s next key milestones include launching the app and website as mentioned above and commencing the first phase of integrated contactless payment options. Among the payment options available, one of them is the Sila card, which will enable travelers to top up and pay for trips across different transport modes. There are also plans in place to launch a Sila loyalty program for travelers to collect points on transport and exchange them for rewards.

Once fully launched, the Sila brand will become a recognizable icon on wayfinding signage and all related transport modes and infrastructure, bringing them all together to ease travel choices and make public transport their preferred mode of travel.

Source: Forbes Middle East