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08 April 2024

A More Secure Future for Doha’s Visionary Metro System

By Alex McCulloch

Doha Metro


Qatar’s capital city, Doha, has rapidly established itself as a hotbed of innovation and connectivity, and no project more perfectly embodies the new Qatari ambition than its Doha Metro initiative. Now one of the most advanced rail transit systems in the world, the $36bn project became operational in 2019 in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup thanks to an international consortium of companies. But this was just the start.

Doha is a city of nearly a million people and with an increasingly sizable tourist population – thanks in no small part to the World Cup – the numbers were only going up. As a modern infrastructure project dealing with such massive footfall, it was important to implement and maintain a robust business continuity and operational resilience strategy for the Doha metro.

All parties wished to adhere to global best practice and security standards. The Doha Metro Consortium team needed to find a partner that was not only able to provide the necessary technical solutions and software expertise but also the working experience of projects at this scale.

The spectre of software failure

It is the nightmare scenario. If the software governing the Doha Metro were to experience a supplier failure, its consequences could be catastrophic. Complex third- and fourth-party relationships provide critical systems around multiple software suppliers around the globe. So, not only would a failure affect the efficiency of the metro itself but also the safety and reliability of the entire network.

The intricate web of automated systems, which covers everything from train controls to signalling and communications, relies on the seamless functioning of thousands of interconnected pieces of software. This could include intellectual property in design schematics or source code such as public address systems, signalling and control systems, or fire protection systems, to name a few. A failure in any part could lead to disruptions, inconvenience on a massive scale, and, worst of all, compromised passenger safety.

The potential ripple effect would also extend further out, damaging public trust and the reputation of the system to the broader vision of regional connectivity and development, impacting economic activities and public trust. To mitigate such risks, robust software resilience measures, such as Escrow Agreements, are not nice-to-haves but need-to-haves, something Doha Metro understood.

A complex deal with moving parts

Escode, part of NCC Group, was brought on to fortify the digital infrastructure underpinning this colossal transportation project. Other partners included Thales, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Corporation, Hitachi, and Kinki Sharyo Co. Our expertise as the world’s leading provider of Software Escrow and resilience solutions was seen as key to protecting both the metro operators and its users from unforeseen technology disruptions. However, the size of the project was enormous, not only in financial terms but also in its complexity. With multiple sub contractor parties involved, including software vendors around the globe, there was a great deal of intricacy throughout.

As part of our initial engagements, we put our global network to work, bringing critical stakeholders and long-standing industry connections together. It’s something we’ve certainly done before – having built trusted partnerships with thousands of software suppliers over the last 30 years.

Aligning with broader visions for the region

The Middle East isn’t doing things on a small scale. When governments in Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia start infrastructure projects like this, they aren’t thinking in months or years, they are thinking in decades or centuries. This project fulfils the goals of the Qatar National Vision 2023, which focuses on comprehensive and lasting transformation projects. It strives to leave behind a legacy of enhanced connectivity, higher employment and improved infrastructure standards that equal any global benchmark.

The Doha Metro project aligns seamlessly with the vision, and Escode wished to do the same. Mobilising populations, hosting international events like the World Cup, and setting the stage for the development of other cities was all part of the scope. By aligning with the broader vision of the Doha region to make this major transport project happen, we were contributing to improving lives and facilitating regional development, harmonising seamlessly with the governments' ambitious goals.

The Escode approach

As of March 2024, we have deployed a dedicated project team to work with our client stakeholder groups covering project management, technical expertise, and legal acumen. Our in-house technical team consisting of Solution Architecture, Verification Delivery & Scheduling and PMO, ensured that all parties understood the obligations of depositing material into Escrow. It meant everyone was prepared for the completion of the initial technical verification processes that have now largely been completed.

Our View platform enabled efficient depositing of material and provided clients with 24/7 visibility, while our ongoing management of agreements via the Escode Client Team will ensure that the contingency arrangements always remained up to date and effective.

As we move into the next phase of the project, the collaboration between ourselves and the consortium governing the Doha Metro is stronger than ever. We have laid a robust foundation for the secure and efficient functioning of the system and are pleased to have played our part in contributing to the region’s broader goals of progress and connectivity.

A strategic partnership

Escode has been collaborating with clients and partners in Qatar for over 25 years and provides Software Escrow solutions across various different sectors, including transportation, financial services and health.

Our role in the Doha Metro project extends far beyond Software Escrow Agreements. It symbolises a strategic partnership, fortifying the digital backbone of a transformative transit system while aligning with the broader regional vision. As the project unfolds, the impact of this collaboration will be felt not only in the efficiency of metro operations but in the lives of the people it serves and the region it propels into a connected future.

Alex McCulloch

Alex McCulloch

Alex McCulloch serves as our Growth Lead, overseeing Escode's relationships with global businesses. With almost 20 years of experience in software escrow and third-party risk management, Alex plays a pivotal role in driving market growth and ensuring Escode's products meet the needs of our global customers.

As the market growth lead, Alex collaborates with strategic partners, customers, and in-country teams to address key concerns such as third-party risk management, supply chain management, and operational resilience. He dedicates a significant portion of his time to advising on escrow implementation and managing critical supplier networks, helping businesses develop successful stressed exit plans.

Alex's expertise extends to his work with Doha Metro, where he has directly contributed to infrastructure management and operational resilience initiatives in the Middle East.

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