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Greater Beirut Public Transport Project: To be funded by the World Bank and the private sector [free access]

February 1, 2020

The present public transport network in Beirut comprises buses operated by the Lebanese Commuting Company (LCC). The city has a population of approximately 2.4 million (2020) people and nearly 650,000 external vehicles enter the Greater Beirut Area (GBA) on a daily basis. A population growth rate of 1.7 per cent combined with an increase in the number of private vehicles has resulted in severe road congestion in the GBA. The main objective of the Greater Beirut Public Transport Project is to make the public transport in the region more efficient by improving the speed, accessibility, and quality of public transport for passengers in Beirut.

 

Project outline

 

The proposed Greater Beirut Public Transport Project is Phase I of a comprehensive national public transport programme.

 

The comprehensive public transport programme: The planned national transport programme will include a bus rapid transit (BRT) network of three trunk BRT lines on the highway that branch out to the Northern, Southern, and Eastern approach roads to Beirut. The BRT lines will also extend within Beirut, to increase connectivity to the three trunk lines as well as to improve connectivity within Beirut. The BRT network is expected to have 20 lines (operating regular and feeder buses), supported by bus stops, sidewalks, and park and ride facilities. Procurement of approximately 1,000 buses has been planned as a part of the transport programme. The programme will be executed in three phases. Table 1 outlines the planned scope of work for each phase.

 

Table 1: Phases of the comprehensive national public transport programme

Phase I

(Greater Beirut Public Transport Project)

Phase II

Phase III

Construction of a BRT system on the Northern Highway and on the outer ring road of Beirut with complementary feeder lines/buses (the proposed project)

Construction of a BRT system on the Southern highway and on two major arterials in Beirut connecting the south, with complementary feeder lines/buses

Construction of a BRT system on the Eastern highway and an additional arterial within Beirut with its feeder lines/buses

 

Source: World Bank

 

Figure 1 presents the geographic overview of the comprehensive national public transport programme and outlines the route of the Greater Beirut Public Transport Project.

 

 

Figure 1: Overview of the comprehensive national public transport programme

 

Source: IBRD

 

The Greater Beirut Public Transport Project has three main components.

 

 

Length: The BRT system on the Northern Highway will span 40 km in length and operate nearly 120 18-metre buses with a capacity of 120 passengers (seated and standing). The main BRT line will run in the centre of the highway from Beirut to Tabarja, covering a distance of 26.2 km.

 

Park and ride facility: To ease access to the BRT, three central “park and ride” spaces have been planned in Tabarja, the Charles Helou station, and the Mar Mikhael bus station.

 

Bus stops: Bus stations have been planned at every 1 km along the BRT line from Tabarja to Beirut.

 

Project cost

 

The total cost to develop Phase I of the BRT network and 20 regular lines is estimated to be approximately USD345 million. Table 2 gives the breakup of the total cost.

 

Table 2: Breakup of the total project cost

Scope of work

Cost (USD million)

Developing the associated infrastructure (including land acquisition cost)

160

Buses and ITS

70

Implementing the regular and feeder network of 20 lines and 250 buses

100

Conducting the necessary capacity building and studies

15

Total

345

Source: World Bank

Notes: All the proposed costs include a price contingency of about 15 percent.

 

 

Financing

 

Funding by IBRD and GCFF: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and Global Concessional Financing Facility (GCFF) will be providing funds amounting to USD295 million, using the Investment Project Financing (IPF) model. The IBRD will extend a loan of USD225.2 million as a non-concessional loan provided on the financial terms chosen by the government. GCFF will extend USD69.8 million on concessional terms, on a grant basis, approved by the GCFF Steering Committee.

 

Private sector financing: Funds amounting to USD50 million will be generated through private sector financing. Approximately 80 per cent of the BRT bus fleet will be financed by the private sector. The majority of the costs are expected to be covered by farebox revenues. A minimum revenue guarantee may be required for efficient public-private partnership (PPP) structuring and risk allocation.

 

Figure 2 shows the division between IBRD, GCFF, and private sector financing.

 

Figure 2: Split between IBRD, GCFF, and private sector financing

 

Source: Global Mass Transit Research

 

Table 3 shows the split of the indicative cost of financing between IBRD/GCFF funds and private sector financing.

 

Table 3: Component-wise indicative cost of financing

Project Components

Indicative Costs (USD millions)

IBRD and GCFF Financing

Private Sector Financing

IBRD and GCFF from Total Cost (%)

Component 1: BRT infrastructure, fleet, and systems

230

180

50

78

Component 2: Feeder buses and integration in urban environment

104.4

104.4

0

100

Component 3: Capacity building and project management

10

10

0

100

Source: World Bank

Box 1 provides details of the potential the project has to secure funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Box 1: Potential for financing by the Green Climate Fund (GCF)

 

The GCF is the world’s largest dedicated fund providing monetary assistance to developing countries to help them reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enhance their ability to respond to climate change. The fund was set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010.

 

A report compiled by the World Bank states that the Greater Beirut Public Transport Project has the potential to be eligible for financing by the GCF. This is mainly owing to its transformative nature in structuring the transport sector in Lebanon in a manner that emphasises the need for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The project will be Lebanon’s first quality mass transit system, and is expected to drive a high modal shift from private vehicles to mass transit. The modal shift potential of the project is expected to contribute significantly to its anticipated large impact on GHG reduction.

Source: World Bank

 

Implementation

 

Project implementation agency: The Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) will be the main agency responsible for the implementation of the Greater Beirut Public Transport Project. Its primary focus will be the execution of all components funded by the World Bank loan. While the CDR will be responsible directly for the project, it will coordinate activities related to project preparation and implementation with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) and the RPTA. The CDR will be responsible for the execution of the entire project-related infrastructure.

 

Implementation support: The World Bank has agreed to provide continuous support during the implementation stage of the project. Key World Bank specialists will be based in Beirut and will have regular interaction with the CDR. The specialists will conduct routine field visits and provide continuous monitoring and verification support.

 

System operation and maintenance: System maintenance and operation works (including operation and maintenance of the buses, stations, intelligent transportation system [ITS], and fare collection systems) will be undertaken by private operators and will be conducted under the supervision of the RPTA. Private operators will also be responsible for the maintenance of the BRT infrastructure and dedicated lanes. The RPTA will ensure that operators are fulfilling their contractual obligations and will also recommend payments and penalties based on the contract clauses.              

 

Ensuring sustainability of operations: The PPP arrangements will guarantee the sustainability of quality operations undertaken by private operators. Skilled operators will be recruited through a transparent and open bidding process through which their capacity (technical and financial) to operate and co-finance the BRT and feeder services will be assessed. Commercial revenues from fares will allow the payment of operating expenses and cover the depreciation of the fleet, thereby ensuring long-term sustainability of operations for the private sector. Finally, multiple operators will be recruited to run services across the system, to prevent a monopoly situation. In an event where one operator steps down, other operators will be eligible to take over the bus operations.

 

Conclusion

 

The Greater Beirut Public Transport Project is expected to significantly improve the quality of public transport in Beirut. The planned BRT will drive a modal shift from private vehicles to mass transit and thereby reduce road congestion. Improved access to stations and an emphasis on a more convenient pedestrian environment will promote the usage of public transport (buses) in Beirut. The implementation of the BRT is expected to reduce the travel time between Beirut and Tabarja from 90 minutes to 40 minutes during peak traffic hours.

 

While the BRT will reduce congestion once operations commence, the implementation of the BRT system will come with its own set of challenges.  The construction of the BRT is expected to add even more pressure to the already overcrowded and congested roads.

 

The project has been approved by the World Bank and Lebanon’s Council of Ministers. The parliament gave the final approval for the project in June 2019. The Greater Beirut Public Transport Project is expected to be completed by 2024 (five years after receiving approval).