Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (third from left) awarding Khaled Al Hogail as winner of IRF’s Man of the Year Award 2021 Image Credit: Twitter/@DXBMediaOffice

Dubai: Global experts on roads and transport converged in Dubai for the ‘18th International Roads Federation World Meeting and Exhibition’, inaugurated by Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Media Council, on Sunday.

Held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, the event is hosted by Dubai, represented by the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Running from November 7 to 10, the event, themed ‘Roads to Tomorrow’, will see 250 road and infrastructure specialists sharing their perspectives in more than 70 sessions and discussion panels. It also features a total of 100 international firms and start-ups.

Sheikh Ahmed was received by Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, and Abdullah Al Mogbel, IRF Global Chairman.

Prominent attendees at the event included Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure; Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications; in addition to director generals of a number of government departments, senior officials and representatives of local and international companies.

A video on the importance of investment in roads and transport networks, and their critical role in promoting rapid growth and sustainable economic development was screened at the opening ceremony.

Running from November 7 to 10, the event sees 250 road and infrastructure specialists in more than 70 sessions Image Credit: Twitter/@DXBMediaOffice

Global Leadership

Delivering an opening address, Al Tayer said: “Under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the follow-up of [Sheikh Hamdan], the Dubai Government has made sustained investments in improving infrastructure and transportation, which it considers a key driver of economic growth and development. These investments have led to the UAE being ranked first in the quality of roads worldwide in the 2013-2017 period, according to the Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum.”

Dh140 billion spent on upgrades

“Since 2006, the Dubai Government has spent over Dh140 billion on the improvement of roads and transport infrastructure to serve the needs arising from urbanisation and rapid economic development, as well as to enhance the happiness of the community. RTA brought about massive improvements in infrastructure with the length of the roads network increasing from 8,715 lane-kilometres in 2006 to 18,255 lane-kilometres in 2020. RTA used cutting-edge smart systems and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things, to broaden traffic coverage,” said Al Tayer.

Smart mobility

Speaking about meeting requirements arising from urban and demographic growth anticipated in the future, Al Tayer said: “Smart mobility is one of the key pillars of future cities that prioritises the wellbeing of the population.”

As part of the vision to transform Dubai into the smartest and happiest city in the world, he said Sheikh Mohammed approved the Dubai Smart Strategy for Self-Driving Transport that seeks to convert 25 percent of total mobility journeys in Dubai to smart driverless journeys by 2030. RTA is completing trial runs on autonomous air taxis, the operation of an autonomous taxi, and studying suspended transportation systems.

Non-conventional solutions

Abdullah Al Mogbel, IRF Global Chairman, said: “This IRF World Meeting & Exhibition articulates the key objectives of the IRF established in 1948. The objectives seek to ensure the roads and transport sector keeps pace with the latest technical and scientific developments and promote greater exchange of ideas and experiences in the field.”

The COVID-19 pandemic caused changes in the movement of people and goods in the recent past, he pointed out.

“It required non-traditional solutions to ensure the smooth movement of goods, especially food and medicine. Throughout the pandemic, the transport sector was resilient enough to adapt to the unprecedented conditions to provide transportation services for societies. It focused on the digital infrastructure to achieve the best means of communication and ensure necessary supplies.

“The IRF was able to quickly adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic and provide virtual tools for delivering information and conducting training and conferences. The number of beneficiaries of our training and educational programmes in 2020 exceeded 5,000 technicians and specialists from 100 countries.

Future challenges

Lord Philip Hammond, Ex Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK, delivered a keynote speech in which he stressed the role of governments in preparing the transport sector for future challenges, and the importance of targeted investments and policies designed to support transport innovation and sustainability.

Citing that the event would also look at sustainable solutions that reduce and eliminate the contribution of transport to climate change, Hammond said the sessions will focus on how roads will become safer, smarter and greener.

Sheikh Ahmed (third from left) awarding Lord Philip Hammond Image Credit: Twitter/@DXBMediaOffice

'Man of The Year'

Sheikh Ahmed also honoured Khaled Al Hogail, Director-General and Executive Director of the Saudi Public Transport Company, as winner of the IRF’s Man of the Year Award 2021. Al Hogail was honoured in recognition of his numerous achievements in the field of transport in Saudi Arabia, and his efforts as chairman of the International Association of Public Transport.

Sheikh Ahmed also honoured the sponsors of the event as well as the keynote speaker Lord Philip Hammond, following which he opened the exhibition.