Dubai is preparing for the launch of its new Metro system but many of the would-be commuters who hoped to switch from their cars and taxis and hitch a ride say they cannot understand why only 10 of the Red Line's 29 stops are to open initially. Eugene Harnan talks to them DUBAI // Many would-be passengers left standing on the platform by Sunday's announcement that only 10 stations will be open when the Metro starts rolling next week are rather bemused.
Some of those missing out on the grand opening of the Red Line on September 9 have taken a look at the gleaming station they planned to use and wonder why they will not be opening. The stations look ready, but according to the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), either they are not, or the infrastructure around them is incomplete. For example, neither of the two stations in Dubai Marina will open.
"They look done," said Michelle Francis, from Britain. "They were just shells not so long ago but it is a shame it will miss the opening. I was looking forward to going to the Mall of the Emirates without having to look for parking." But some help is on the way for the disappointed commuters. Authorities plan to launch 17 new bus feeder routes by Saturday in an attempt to make access to the Metro as easy as possible. From tomorrow, four new routes will be added to the Terminal 3 station. The buses are starting before the trains are available so that the system can be fine-tuned.
Mall of the Emirates and Nakheel Harbour and Tower stations will have new feeder routes. The central business district around Khalid bin al Waleed station and Union Square station already have a number of bus routes running past them, and they will not have additional feeder routes. Stations selected for the initial opening met criteria established by the RTA, including the number of expected passengers at each station which was measured on the completion of neighbouring developments and the number of government buildings in the surrounding area.
The 10 stations to open on September 9 are: Rashidiya, Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport, City Centre, Al Rigga, Union Square, Khalid bin al Waleed, Jafliah, Financial Centre, Mall of the Emirates, and Nakheel Harbour and Tower. The RTA says the other 19 stations on the Red Line will be open by February. The intersecting Green Line, with 18 stations on 22.5km will be open in June. The nearest station to Dubai Marina, Nakheel Harbour and Tower, will have a bus feeder route, the F37 from the Marina to the station.
"I don't want to wait for a bus," said Ms Francis. "And I do not want to take a bus back to my apartment. It does not make sense. Also, if I was to take a taxi, why don't I take one the whole way," she added. In Media and Internet City, which will be served by two stations by February 2010, parking is hard to find. "It's even difficult to find parking in the areas where we have to pay for it. At this time of the year, I can only find parking about 10 minutes away from my office. I was thinking the Metro might take some of the cars off the roads but it looks like I have to wait longer," said Mohammad Waleed, from Kuwait.
Karl Bergen, a Swede, said it didn't make sense for some of the other stations not to open because they were in highly populated places. "Some of the stations do not need to be there, like the station in Al Quoz, but the ones here in Media City and the Marina should open. As far as I remember, the one in Jebel Ali always looked ready and that is in an area with thousands of workers," claimed Mr Bergen, who currently gets to work in Media City by taxi or with a colleague.
"It looks like I'll still have to use a car," added Mr Bergen who lives next to the Khalid bin al Waleed station. "I was looking forward to using the Metro to get to work, but now I'm a little deflated I still have to wait to use it." Not everyone is upset by the delay. Yesterday, some potential passengers for the 52km line were indifferent to why stations near their offices or homes were not going to open on September 9.
Farther down the track at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, Sandra Kallen from Britain said it didn't bother her if the stations were not open on time. "I'm not going to use it and if I do, it would be to go the Mall of the Emirates for shopping," she added. Jonatan Murray, who lives in Business Bay, said some of the stations did not look ready. "I am not going to use it. If the stations were ready, I might use it but I will be living further out of the city soon so I will be driving to work every day anyway," he added.
Omer Hajairi from Lebanon didn't know how to get to the Metro. "How are we going to use it?", he said at Ibn Battuta Mall. Mr Hajairi, who lives in Sharjah, said there was no information on the system such as timings and was unaware of bus feeder routes. "I am not going to drive to a station and park. I will keep driving to where I want to go. The Metro line does not go everywhere but it will be nice for the city to have a Metro," he added.
"Even if it was open, I wouldn't take it," said Alan Dunne, from the UK. The legal adviser said there was no reason for him to take public transport to his office opposite the World Trade Centre station, which will not open on September 9. "I am not going to walk more than five minutes in this heat to get to a station. Petrol is cheap and since the economic slowdown, there is no traffic. "People here are used to getting cigarettes or coffee delivered to their doorstep. Why will they get out and walk to a Metro station?"