RAS AL KHAIMAH // The RAK Transport Authority (Rakta) has delayed its long awaited mid-December bus service launch after running into problems training some drivers.
Buses to rural and industrial areas in Ras al Khaimah are scheduled to finally take to the roads by January 17 after first being planned more than two years ago.
Previous delays during the course of the year were caused by factors including a lack of buses and land ownership issues, Rakta has said.
"It's a technical problem with some drivers' training and we are looking for more," said Yousef Esmaeel, the Rakta vice chairman. "Some of them were not good and we have to replace them. We've postponed it for 20 or 30 days only. We propose to make it by mid-January, so we can launch as soon as possible."
The bus service debut would mark a milestone for RAK, which has no public transport system in place. Those depending on taxis to get around have suffered since taxi companies increased fares by 30 per cent in October to cover rising fuel costs.
"I still go [out] in a taxi one time a week after the meter increases, but if the bus starts I will go out five or six times a week," said Surander Harising, 40, a steel fitter who earns Dh800 a month. "The taxi is expensive, but what can we do?"
The second and third phases of the bus system could include services within RAK city and were on schedule to begin operating by March, Mr Esmaeel said. Seven drivers are required for the first phase and 15 will be needed in total. A one-way bus fare was set to cost Dh7 in August. A one-way taxi fare to the industrial areas from the Nakheel area is more than Dh40.
City routes will be determined by the popularity of the rural routes, which will run hourly from Nakheel to the north coast border town of Sha'am and south to Jazirat al Hamra and the industrial area of Al Ghail.
Priority is being given to outlying areas to help labourers who live outside the city. Additional routes to rural areas will launch in the spring.
"We need more than one alternative for our customers," Mr Esmaeel said earlier this month. "We have to do something for people who cannot afford the taxis. We are not expecting to make any profit. This is our responsibility to make accessible transport for everyone, but sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves that it takes some time."