Transport officials are fast-tracking plans to build a light-rail tram network in the capital and hope to open the first two lines by the end of 2012, two years earlier than expected. The first route will connect the Central Business District, one of two urban axes planned for the capital under its 2030 plan, by linking Reem Island, Sowwah Island, downtown Abu Dhabi Island and Marina Mall, according to the Surface Transport Master Plan of the Department of Transport.
A second independent line will link the Raha Beach development, Yas Island, the Masdar carbon neutral city and Abu Dhabi International Airport. "A very extensive street-running tram system will provide high quality services to much of the metropolitan area," the department said in a report. The ambitious agenda could become difficult to achieve, however, as the department is still selecting a consultant to conduct an 18-month feasibility study.
The trams will be integrated into a multi-layered transport network comprising buses, underground metro, long-distance rail and personal rapid transit systems throughout the capital to reduce road use. Increasing public transport participation will form the lion's share of the Dh300 billion (US$81.67bn) in transport expenditure the emirate plans over the next 20 years. The tram will provide "frequent and reliable services covering the denser development areas, where the higher capacity can be justified, with tram stops planned roughly every 500 metres", the department said.
A third tram line connecting Saadiyat Island and the Capital District is expected by 2015. Tram construction will continue until 2030, when the last of the lines of the 340km network will be completed, including connecting Shahama and possibly the last lines linking the network with Musaffah, South Hodariyat Island, Mohammed Bin Zayed City and Mafraq. The bidders who submitted their initial proposals in November included a UK-based joint venture involving Mott MacDonald and Halcrow; a group with Systra of France and Parsons International of the US; and an American group of Parsons Brinckerhoff and AECOM, MEED magazine reported.
The department is scheduled to meet consultants next week after having evaluated technical bids from a reported 10 groups and will call for proposals from the short-listed groups. The study will help refine the location and alignments of each route and determine which streets would be better served by rapid bus services. It is understood the first major task will be to evaluate the first two tram lines and allow the department to award construction contracts as soon as possible to meet the 2012 deadline.
The construction efforts will produce more than just tram lines, however. Officials at the Urban Planning Council say they will use the disruptions caused by the work to change the street layout and make it safer for pedestrians. @Email:email@example.com