The State of Qatar recently introduced Law No. 11 of 2020 (the Railways Law), that came into effect in June 2020. The Railways Law provides a framework for the operation and regulation of the railways in Qatar, and so will be key as Qatar develops its rail infrastructure and marks Qatar out in the GCC as a leader in developing its rail infrastructure, to encourage the use of environmentally friendly alternatives to private transportation.
The Railways Law is relevant to anyone looking to invest or participate in the development of Qatar's rail infrastructure. The law not only delineates the responsibilities of the regulatory bodies responsible for supervising the railways, but also the requirement to obtain and maintain a licence to carry out certain works and this article aims to provide a brief overview of the same.
The Railways Law sets out specific responsibilities for the Ministry of Transport and Communications (the Ministry), Qatar Railways Company (Qatar Rail) and the administrative unit within the Ministry responsible for regulating safety in relation to the railways in Qatar (the Safety Regulatory Body). Their responsibilities are briefly set out below.
The Ministry is responsible for matters such as:
- planning and regulating railway networks;
- regulating railway construction works;
- managing the operation of railway networks;
- issuing licences (and monitoring compliance with the conditions stated therein); and
- determining activities that can be carried out inside railway infrastructure sites or surrounding areas.
Qatar Rail is responsible for matters such as:
- preparing a national railway network plan and submitting the same to the Ministry for approval (as well as an integration plan for the country's main transportation network);
- conducting examinations and tests for train conductors, traffic inspectors, supervision and control staff;
- providing railway services by itself or through other operators;
- determining the specifications and technical requirements of the railway traction fleet as well as monitoring compliance therewith and issuing instructions regarding thereto,
- preparing general health and safety principles related to the operation of the railways, monitoring compliance therewith and submitting the same to the Ministry for review and approval; and
- suggesting railway transport fees and issuing the same.
Safety Regulatory Body
The Safety Regulatory Body is responsible for matters such as:
- issuing Railway Infrastructure Safety Certificates (relating to the safety of infrastructure and wagons) and Operational Safety Certificates (approving the operation of the railways in accordance with safety standards) and ensuring compliance with the requirements thereof;
- ensuring compliance with the railway operational safety legislation;
- carrying out inspection programmes to review the operators’ activities; and
- investigating incidents and accidents related to the construction, operation and maintenance of railways, independently from any criminal investigations.
Separate regulations will be published in due course determining the investigation procedures and authority of the Safety Regulatory Body.
We note that the Railways Law will cover heavy rail, metro and tram services. While the Railways Law provides a single safety body for these different types of rail system, the responsibilities of the Safety Regulatory Body appear to allow for some differences in the regulations of the safety systems to ensure that the workers, passengers and public for each system type are adequately protected. We also expect that in the case of tramways, provisions to deal with the interaction between trams and other road users will be provided in due course.
Railway works/railway safety works
The Railways Law provides for two categories of works, being Railway Works and Railway Safety Works (both as defined below) to deal with different obligations on a party carrying out activities connected with the operation of the railways and to carrying out activities connected with health and safety on the railway network (respectively).
Carrying out railway works
The Railways Law provides that no contractor, consultant or operator can perform any activity related to the railways or railway infrastructure unless they are qualified and classified by the Ministry as per the conditions and controls set forth in the executive regulations to the Railways Law (to be published in due course).
Works related to operating the railways (Railway Works) are defined by the Railways Law are defined as including:
- designing and building railway infrastructure (as well as conducting operational activities which will be set out in the executive regulations to the Railways Law (to be published in due course));
- manufacturing, managing, operating and moving railway wagons and providing operational equipment, materials, supplies and spare parts;
- providing maintenance and repair services for railway wagons; and
- developing, operating, managing and monitoring railway operation systems.
A party licensed to conduct Railway Works is required to comply with:
- technical conditions, controls and durations defined in their licence, safety certificates and any permits issued to them;
- requirements and specifications imposed by the Ministry; and
- operational safety requirements.
Further to the above, the Railways Law provides that railways can only be operated after the operator acquires an Infrastructure Safety Certificate and an Operational Safety Certificate, as per the rules and procedures set forth in the executive regulation to the Railways Law (to be published in due course), and the payment of the approved fees.
Carrying out railway safety works
The Railways Law provides that works related to railway safety (the Railway Safety Works) will include:
- maintenance and repair works for railway infrastructure, railway wagons, operational equipment and tools and remote communication systems;
- inspecting and examining railway infrastructure as well as operational equipment and systems;
- imposing general health and safety rules, standards and requirements relating to railway operation and monitoring compliance therewith by operational safety staff;
- determining the specifications and technical conditions of railway infrastructure as their operations systems and monitoring the operator’s compliance therewith;
- monitoring a service provider’s performance to ensure its compliance with any conditions contained in its licence, the provisions of the Railways Law and its associated executive regulations; and
- investigating train accidents and adopting the reports resulting from the investigations.
A party licensed to carry out Railway Safety Works is required to:
- take all necessary measures to mitigate risks that may result from performing their works;
- operate the railways in a safe manner, maintaining general health and safety requirements; and
- provide the Safety Regulatory Body with information about the following:
- accidents occurring during construction, operation and maintenance;
- measures taken to improve general safety on the railways;
- their comprehensive insurance policy against accidents occurring during construction, operation, and maintenance (which must be obtained from a national insurance company).
The Railways Law makes clear that Railway Works cannot be carried out without a licence (or the necessary approvals).
This licence will be granted by a 'competent department', which the Railways Law defines as being any administrative department concerned with land transportation in the Ministry (the Competent Department). The executive regulations (which have yet to be published) to the Railways Law will determine the documents to be submitted as a part of the licence application process.
The Competent Department is responsible for issuing the necessary licences to plan, design, execute and operate railway projects and supporting logistics, including permits to manage infrastructure, communication, and to providing repair and maintenance services.
In order to apply for a licence, an applicant needs to:
- be a qualified and classified pursuant to the executive regulations to the Railways Law (which are yet to be published);
- not have been declared bankrupt; and
- ensure that its manager has not had proceedings issued against them for a crime against 'honour or trust', unless such proceedings have been dropped/such manager has been found innocent.
The Railways Law sets out that such a licence will be comprised of:
- the obligations of the licensee;
- duration of the licence (which will be for a period of one year, renewable on an annual basis);
- conditions for the renewal of the licence;
- the circumstances in which the licence can be cancelled; and
- the financial rights of the licensor.
A licensed service provider will be liable for any losses, damages or accidents resulting from:
- breach of any conditions and requirements stipulated in its licence;
- non-abidance with any public safety requirements stipulated in relevant legislation; and
- negligence or default in performing any licensed railway service.
A licensee is required to remedy any violations of the Railways Law or its associated executive regulations within the deadline set by the Competent Department, otherwise the Ministry can remedy such violations at the licensee’s expense in addition to 25% of the cost as an administrative expense.
If a licensee refrains from providing a service for which it is licensed or commits a violation of its licence that results in the cessation of the service, the Ministry can provide the same service by itself or through another licensee until the violation is remedied or the licence is cancelled and the service is entrusted to another licensee, whichever comes first.
Sanctions and Fines
The Railways Law provides that any person intentionally sabotaging the railways or facilities or causing damages that can jeopardize public safety can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to five years.
Additionally, where a licensee violates the provisions of the Railways Law (or its associated executive regulations) or the terms of its licence, they will be liable to pay a fine in accordance with a table annexed to the Railways Law and the Safety Regulatory Body has the right to take any of the following measures:
- issuing a warning to the violator to remedy the violation within a specified deadline;
- suspending works to remedy the reasons behind the violation;
- temporarily suspending a licence; and/or
- withdrawing an Infrastructure Safety Certificate or an Operational Safety Certificate.
The Ministry also has the right to cancel a licence in the event that a licensee violates any provision of the Railways Law, its associated executive regulations or the licence.
For further information in relation to the Railways Law and the associated licensing regime, please contact Andrew Greaves, Paul Hirst, Ahmad Anani, Martin Fleetwood and Alistair Stewart.