(AFP Doha) Qatar on Wednesday opened its first metro line as the gas-rich Gulf state bolsters its infrastructure ahead of hosting the football World Cup in 2022.
The new 40-kilometre (25 mile) “Red Line” links the Al-Wakrah and Lusail arenas being built for the event and will eventually run from the international airport to central Doha.
It is the first of three lines set to open by 2020 ahead of the kick-off of the showcase football tournament.
“I never thought we would get to see a metro in Doha in my lifetime,” Qatari retiree Khaled al-Badr said proudly as he took his first ride.
Qatar is splashing vast sums on its preparations for the World Cup and has said it is spending $500 million a week on projects.
The Lusail stadium, part of a new $45-billion city, can seat up to 80,000 people and is to host the final games of the World Cup.
Qatar Rail, the state-owned company responsible for the metro, has said it hopes to wean people off cars and encourage them to use public transport.
“I will no longer be stuck in traffic jams,” said Carly Jane Figgis a business manager from France who was snapping selfies and videos in the metro.
“It’s big, it’s fast and we were sharing cabs before this but now I think we will just share a metro ride,” chimed in Indian worker Amol.
Since being chosen as host in 2010, Qatar has come under intense pressure on human rights, especially with regard to the rights of workers building World Cup venues and infrastructure.
In February, the gas-rich Gulf state said it was committed to labour reforms, following an Amnesty International report that it was failing to stop widespread abuse of workers.