Over the past few years, the Middle East and North Africa region has invested heavily in its transport infrastructure and for the likes of the UAE in particular, the money has gone into planes and trains in order to better improvement links between states, but to turn the region into both a business and tourist hub.
Air traffic in the Middle East is the fastest growing in the world, and as such the UAE has been implementing various aviation projects in order to cater for the increasing number of passengers at their various airports and thus improving their general transport infrastructure.
As you'd expect Dubai, has spearheaded the developments with Al Maktoum Airport, set to be the centrepiece of Dubai World Centre. Once finished, the US$8 billion Al Maktoum International Airport, named after the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the former ruler of Dubai, will have an annual cargo capacity of 12 million tonnes, more than three times that of Memphis International Airport, currently the world's largest cargo hub. It will also eclipse the world's current busiest passenger airport - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The American airport sees its annual passenger number 90 million, but Al Maktoum is expected to deal with between 120 and 150 million per year.
The hub of Dubai World Central, the airport has been designed to deal with all future 'next-gen' aircraft such as the Airbus A380. As such, the airport boasts six parallel runways, each 4.5km in length and 800m apart. Because of the size of the runaways, the airport will be able to allow four aircraft to land simultaneously throughout the day, minimising on in-air queuing that is the bane of major airports and results in high fuel consumption and increased emissions.
As it's at the centre of the DWC, the airport will also feature stations for the Dubai Metro and the DWC light railway... but we'll get to trains later.
The expansion of air services in the Middle East has seen an increase in the production of 'airport cities', especially in Saudi Arabia, where the Kingdom has been starting plans to construct around its three main international airports.
Last year, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) was reportedly already looking at proposals from numerous aviation firms to develop the land around Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam airports. At the time, he said, "We have had a lot of interest from airport operators and developers throughout the world; we have also contracted world-class operators from Frankfurt airport, Fraport, and Singapore Airport to support the operation and further development of international gateway airports in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam.
On top of that Qatar and Abu Dhabi have been making their own improvements to their respective air sectors with Qatar Airways continuing work on the advanced Doha International Airport, which is expected to open in 2015, while Abu Dhabi are mid-way through an US$6.8 billion expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Many emirates and states are hoping that by improving air connections, they have a better chance of hosting global events such as The Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup.
Laying the tracks for a rail network
Rail is another part of the region's transport infrastructure that has gathered support in the Middle East from Dubai's Metro System to plans for an expansive network connecting the GCC states.
Qatar and Bahrain have one of the most ambitious projects, combining both rail and metro lines, which is set to transform the emirate into a major transport hub. The project, which is rumoured to be costing over US$36.6 billion (QR133.5 billion) and estimated to take six years, is expected to be finished in phases over the next six years, with three major sections being the focus of the scheme - the metro network within Greater Doha, the over-ground railways covering the whole of Qatar and then, linking it to the rest of the GCC region and cargo trains.
There are also plans to build a connection from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia via a 40-kilometer causeway, set to be one of the world's longest.
The metro rail section of the project is expected to cover a total distance of 354km with the trains running at speeds of 80 to 160km per hour. The ground rail network will, on the other hand, cover a total distance of 345km and traverse the entire country with passenger electric trains running at between 220 and 350km per hour. This network will be linked to the GCC railways by 2017. Cargo trains covering major economic centres in Qatar will be running at 120km per hour.
Heading most of these projects is German rail operator Deutsche Bahn who, over the past few years, has become the 'go-to' firm regarding rail projects in the Middle East. The company successfully completed the Dubai Metro and are heading the Qatar/Bahrain network saying they will be involved in all facets of the project, from "planning the transport system, to building the infrastructure and delivering and servicing the trains."
What about cars?
Cars are a big part of the Middle East, but it is hoped that increased metro investment will see car numbers drop and with them, carbon emissions and congestion. However in such a lucrative part of the world, car sales are still high, but the region's Roads and Transport Authorities are still stressing the importance of alternative forms of travel.
In Dubai, it is hoped that the Metro will put a hold on the ever increasing number of drivers, with the system hopefully being utilised by 30 percent of the emirate's population by 2020.
Either way, transport infrastructure investment has never been higher in the Middle East.