A light rail network and underground could be on the cards for Amman if the government accepts the city's plan to develop a metropolitan transit system, says Omar Maani, the mayor of Jordan's capital. A public transport system would help to ease traffic congestion in the city and support the extensive property developments in the pipeline, Mr Maani said. "Infrastructure and public transport are big challenges for development - we need to satisfy the needs of investors," he said.
Several major projects are already under construction in the city, including the Abdali Downtown development, a central business and residential district. Work also began earlier this week on Sanaya Amman, a twin tower residential complex by the UAE developer, Limitless, destined to be the tallest building in the city. The construction of a further 30 residential towers have been approved by the municipality, with work on all of them expected to begin in the next 18 months.
The rail system has been designed to be integrated with the overall development plan for Amman. "We're going to submit the plans to the government in the next six weeks," said Mr Maani. Rail transport is now a major focus of economic development in Jordan, which has a population of six million, with 2.8 million people living in Amman. At the end of May, after suffering a number of planning setbacks, the Ministry of Transport signed a Dh1.2 billion (US$327 million) deal with a consortium of Kuwaiti and Spanish companies for the construction of a 26km railway between Raghadan station in Amman and Zarqa, the second-largest city in Jordan.
The railway will run on a dual track and is expected to transport about 100,000 passengers a day between the two cities. It will also connect Raghadan with the Queen Alia International airport in Amman. The project is expected to begin operating in early 2011. Mr Maani said that migration to the urban centres of the country in the past 20 to 30 years had placed a considerable amount of pressure on housing and transport.
Earlier this year, in response to a severe housing shortage, the government said it would build 120,000 homes throughout the country for low- to middle-income Jordanians, with almost half that number being built in Amman. "The disposable income of families in Jordan has not risen, this is why the government has intervened," said Mr Maani. The only other form of rail travel available in Jordan is the Hejaz railway, which was built in 1906 to link Damascus in Syria and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Today, the small section of the line that remains offers sporadic freight and passenger services between Damascus and Amman, while the rest of the rail line has either fallen into disrepair or been destroyed.