Atkins to open Middle East “rail university”

Atkins has announced that it is to respond to "market need" by opening a centre of excellence for rail systems in the Middle East. The move is a response to the rapid growth of high-speed rail projects in the region: every country in the Gulf is planning to extend its network and to participate in an international line that will run from Kuwait to Oman. 

To help to organise the new centre, Atkins has recruited Abdeljabbar Ben Salem, formerly Bombardier’s business development manager for the region, as head of rail systems. Dr Abdeljabbar, who studied engineering and robotics in Nancy in France and business in Manchester, was with the Canadian engineer for eight years. 

The Middle East and North Africa region is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for rail and metro projects, with more than $35bn worth of contracts awarded last year, according to the Middle East Economic Digest. 

Rail Projects planned or under way in the region are valued at just under $170bn, including projects worth more than $50bn in Saudi Arabia and $35bn in Qatar. Dr Abdeljabbar said the rail market in the Middle East had reached a crucial phase, which would spur even greater demand for rail systems engineers.

He said: "What we’re seeing now is a demand for the scientific planning and understanding that is needed for smart city urbanisation, and rail systems skills are an integral part of that vision."

The firm has recently been tipped to buy Parsons from Balfour Beatty and has won contracts in Puerto Rico and Shanghai.

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