The importance of investing and planning ahead for infrastructure projects across the transport sector was among the key topics addressed on the second day of the 26th World Road Congress Abu Dhabi 2019.

Taking place at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), the Congress provided the opportunity for more than hundreds of delegates including road professionals, thought leaders and academics to share their expertise on the most emerging trends and challenges in the sector.

Focusing on the Congress’ theme ‘Connecting Cultures, Enabling Economies’, the experts participated across 19 sessions during the day including workshops and technical discussions.

H.E MATTAR AL TAYER OUTLINES CRUCIAL ROLE OF INVESTING

Taking to the stage for the first keynote session of the day was His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Director General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Authority – Dubai.

H.E Al Tayer revealed that investments of Dubai Government in roads and transport infrastructure had generated economic benefits in terms of saved time and fuel wastes in the order of AED169 billion between 2006 to 2018.

Addressing the assembled audience, he said: “The UAE has today become a leading country in the quality of infrastructure. It has kept its ranking of being first in the world in the quality of roads for four successive years. Such investments had also benefited the competitiveness of the UAE in hosting global events, such as Expo 2020.”

He also explained why extensive planning is required to deliver a sustainable and fully modern infrastructure.

He said: “Effective leadership warrants a clear vision and close follow-up, be it through meetings or periodic field visits. It also requires timely and well-rehearsed decisions, technical expertise built on different information sources, and playing an effective role in achieving results through the power of persuasion.” 

In the second keynote speech of the day, Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the World Health Organization explained why road safety must not be ignored by countries when building road infrastructure.

Speaking in front of hundreds of delegates, he said: “Globally, every year, 1.3 million people are killed in road accidents and it is the number one cause of death of children.

“The key factor that will help road safety is a decision from the top and that includes the government. We have to implement what we know will work. We also have to recognise that tackling speed is one of the important things to improve road safety.”

He added: “Roads are not just for cars, it is for everybody. The infrastructure that is being built should ensure that children can cycle and walk safely to school while there should be better accessibility for disabled people to move around the roads.”

SHARING VIEWS TO DEAL WITH THE PRESENT AND FUTURE

Throughout the day at ADNEC, experts contributed to a series of discussions through workshops, technical, foresight and special sessions that took place simultaneously.

Opening the day’s proceedings was the Special Project Session – ‘Contribution of road transport to sustainability and economic development’.

Chaired by Ernesto Barrera, Head of Roads Maintenance Department, Ministry of Public Works in Chile, the session revealed that the outcomes and findings of the World Road Association’s (PIARC) study will be published later this year.

Addressing the audience, Graham Pendlebury, Director of Local Transport, Department of Transport in the UK and Chair of the Special Project Oversight Team, explained why the study handbook would be a valuable tool for policy and decision-makers.

He revealed six themes from the findings that highlighted how investment can significantly boost the country’s economy, employment, road safety, environment, the wellbeing of human beings as well as providing better access to education.

Pendlebury outlined examples of nations including Latvia which showed financial backing making a difference that has improved journeys in their capital Riga. He also revealed the importance of building a roads network that caters for cyclists after highlighting Denmark has invested in cycling across the country with 49% of children aged between 11 to 15, cycling to school.

Among the other key sessions that took place were ‘Transport is not gender neutral: From increasing mobility to enhancing mobility’.

The session saw the experts engage in a series of topics that showcased the importance of gender equality and creating job opportunities for both men and women.

Guangzhe Chen, Global Director, Transport Global Practice while emphasising why it is essential especially in a transport sector that continues to grow rapidly said: “To achieve the maximum social and economic gains, it requires the expertise and knowledge of both men and women. This is an issue that we will take seriously and we want to focus on closing the gender gap in the future and this has been recognized as one of key strategies by the World Bank Group to make a difference in the sector.”

LOOK AHEAD TO DAY THREE

The 26th World Road Congress will resume on Tuesday for another crucial day of talks. The programme will feature 19 more sessions with the electric roads systems, positive energy roads and disability-inclusive road transport among the topics to be discussed.

The keynote sessions will see Guangzhe Chen, Global Director of Transport Global Practice and Regional Director of South Asia Infrastructure Department World Bank and Nazir Alli, Founder and Former Chief Executive Officer of the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) address the audience on two key topics.

Chen will share his expertise on ‘The road to sustainable transport – tackling the finance challenge’ while Alli will later take to the stage to speak on the topic – ‘Enhancing infrastructure for social cohesion and trade in Africa’.