Buildings and Places, Design, Rail, Transforming Transit, Transit, Transportation

In this Transforming Transit blog series, we explore the leaders of connectivity and mobility, driving forward transit innovation via smarter, sustainable transportation solutions tailored to meet the evolving needs of our clients and communities alike.

Adrian Lindon has led major transport projects worldwide since kickstarting his career as an architect almost 30 years ago. From Bangkok’s metro to Sydney’s and Dubai’s transit rail systems, he’s designed and led efficient transportation projects which have greatly improved mobility and connectivity within cities.

Tell us a bit about yourself – your role and career journey.

After graduating, I began my career as an architect in the UK.  I then moved to Thailand to work on the Bangkok underground metro system, followed by several leadership positions on architecture and transportation projects in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.  I then came to Dubai as director of architecture for the Dubai Metro and was also lucky enough to work on several other projects in the Middle East including the Doha Metro Redline, Doha Goldline, Riyadh Metro and the Jeddah international airport high speed rail station. 

Following a stint in North America on the Washington Purple Line, I returned to Dubai and then in 2020, relocated back to Australia for a client-side role as Executive Director Design at Sydney Metro where I was responsible for design excellence across all three of their major metro projects.

I then joined AECOM as Regional Director in the Middle East, overseeing a team dedicated to all built assets within the rail and transportation sector.

Talk to us about a transit or rail station project that has impacted or been a major highlight of your career. How is it helping to solve some of the challenges and issues our clients and communities are facing?

Two standout projects have helped to mold my career: the Epping to Chatswood rail line in Sydney, Australia, and the Dubai Metro. I was involved from the concept stage of the Epping to Chatswood line right through to its operation which provided fantastic personal and professional growth for me as a young architect. I saw the whole thing come together from start to finish and I would always encourage younger colleagues to get out to site to see their projects become reality, because you learn so much by doing that. The project received acclaim for its architectural design and integration into Sydney’s diverse communities, setting a standard for future rail projects in the city. Its success led to increased public transit usage, reducing travel times and laying the groundwork for Sydney Metro Northwest which revolutionized the city’s public transportation.

Initially, the Dubai Metro faced skepticism from Dubai’s car-centric community. However, over the years, the project has emerged as a tremendous success, catering to millions of passengers every week. It provides key linkages to major population centers across its 75-kilometer length, and its stations have become catalysts for urban growth and placemaking. It was extended to serve Expo 2020 and is now being extended again with the forthcoming Blue Line, which will further play a vital role in enhancing Dubai’s connectivity and urban development.

The quality of the architecture on these two projects enhances the passenger experience and the integration of the stations into the urban environment. Both projects highlight the power of public transportation in addressing urban challenges such as traffic congestion and accessibility, promoting sustainable mobility, and fostering community integration. I’m proud of how these projects have left an indelible mark on the cities they serve, setting benchmarks for future transit initiatives.

What are some of the key considerations when designing and implementing rail systems in densely populated urban environments, and how do you address issues such as space constraints, noise pollution and urban mobility?

When designing and implementing major rail projects in densely populated urban areas, collaboration is key for success. Effective management and coordination of internal and external interfaces are critical factors that can determine project outcomes. Early engagement with key stakeholders, including the surrounding community, property owners, developers, and relevant authorities, is essential for successful urban integration and placemaking. By prioritizing collaboration and stakeholder engagement, we can facilitate solutions to address space constraints, noise pollution, and enhance urban mobility in densely populated areas.

When working on the Sydney Metro, proactive engagement with stakeholders, including customers and First Nations groups, ensured broad input into the project development and requirements. This approach fosters greater buy-in and leads to more successful outcomes. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t always happen. Learning from existing users, passengers, staff and stakeholders can provide valuable insights into various challenges, informing future project design and improving urban mobility.

Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of rail and how are we positioned to lead and innovate in this rapidly evolving landscape?

Considering the rapidly evolving landscape, the future of rail presents a profound challenge: designing projects today that remain relevant and adaptable for the next century. Until the turn of the millennium, the rate of technological advancement within the industry has been relatively slow, with many historical rail projects dating back to 1900s still being used today. However, the pace of innovation and technological advancement in the next 100 years is almost unfathomable. What we design today needs to continue to be relevant and operational well into the future.  

Digital twins are bound to revolutionize rail projects by enhancing customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, and environmental impact assessment. Incorporating artificial intelligence into this framework further augments asset management and resilience.

The other major focus is on environment and net-positive regenerative design solutions. Sustainability must underpin every aspect of rail development, aligning with ESG strategies and striving for net zero or even net positive outcomes. We’ve seen a shift toward environmental stewardship and our dedication to resilience and regenerative solutions in the transport sector ensures a sustainable legacy for generations to come.

Adrian Lindon

Originally published May 28, 2024

Author: Adrian Lindon

Adrian Lindon is Regional Director, Rail based in Dubai, UAE.