Alstom, the French rail firm, says it will lay the first tracks in December for the Al Sufouh tram project in Dubai, a Dh4 billion (US1.08bn) mass transit system running from Dubai Marina to the Mall of the Emirates. The tramline would be the first in the Gulf and the first anywhere with air conditioned stations, officials said. The 11km first phase, which includes 2.5km of rail running above ground across a viaduct and 11 Alstom Citadis trams, is scheduled to open in 2011.
"This will be a world premiere," said Eric Lenoir, the regional communications manager of Alstom, which is building phase one with BESIX of Belgium and Serco, which is based in the UK. Reflecting a design trend, Al Sufouh's tram system would be driven by a ground-level power supply, compared with conventional trams which rely on overhead electrical wires, Mr Lenoir said. Rail projects have become popular in the GCC as the region tries to reduce road congestion and improve the quality of life. Dubai has invested heavily in mass transit and this year opened the Palm Jumeira Monorail on the man-made island as well as the first line of its Dh28bn Dubai Metro rail transit system.
In Abu Dhabi, planners have considered spending up to Dh250bn on tram, metro and long-distance rail lines as part of its 2030 plan, with the first services scheduled to open about 2014. This year, the UAE Government incorporated the Union Railway Company to begin work developing a 1,300km heavy rail line to stimulate freight and passenger transport among the seven emirates. The line will eventually become part of the GCC railway linking Kuwait with Oman.
Mr Lenoir said work was progressing smoothly on the project for Al Sufouh. Project engineers began work this summer on the viaduct and excavation for the platforms and stations. Work on the first cars began in France this month as well as laying of the first track bed, Mr Lenoir said. A second phase on the line has been postponed, said the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority. In winning the phase one contract, Alstom reportedly beat rival bids from Ansaldo Energia of Italy, Marubeni of Japan, Leighton Holdings of Australia and Siemens of Germany.