While trainspotting might not normally be considered hip, it has new-found respect in Dubai ahead of the launch of the Metro on September 9. Videos covertly shot from the tracks and inside the trains have filtered on to websites such as YouTube and Facebook, many filmed by workers on the Dh15 billion (US$4.1bn) project.
Thousands of people anxious for a glimpse of the driverless trains weaving among the skyscrapers of Dubai are getting sneak previews online. On one YouTube video, which drew 1,390 viewings in four weeks, a web surfer called ChannelHal commented: "It looks beautiful! Anyone who has ever used the London Underground will know how important this is." Rocky Baloch said: "I'm waiting 4 a ride every day."
And Nikki said: "It's pretty cool." Another video called "Dubai Metro Inside View by Irfan" shows shaky, grainy footage from inside a carriage, apparently filmed on a mobile phone. The video takes more than five minutes to pan the seats, the blue carpeting in gold class and the maps of Metro routes inside the doors. Some videos show close-ups of construction workers on the tracks or inside the stations. One, shot from a bridge and simply showing the gold roof of the World Trade Centre station with a voice-over, has had more than 2,000 hits.
In another, called "Dubai Metro", a construction worker admits he filmed secretly when he was "at the Union Square station for some work and for the first time I was very close to the Metro". His footage shows two trains passing through at speed and has attracted hundreds of hits in a few days. Peyman Younes Parham, the director of marketing at the Roads and Transport Authority, takes the undercover publicity in his stride. "That is the nature of the web," he said. "We have not revealed anything like this but some people work on their own."
Official websites showing the development of the project are drawing attention as well. The RTA has launched its own Facebook, YouTube and Twitter entries, and a film of the scheme being showcased at the Gitex exhibition in Dubai in 2007 has had more than 55,000 viewings on YouTube. "The whole point behind having our own website is to give more information to the public," Mr Parham said. "Anyone can walk up to a station, take some photos and put them on the internet, but we will be sharing things most people have not yet seen in the coming days."
Several forums yesterday were discussing the pending opening of the 75km-long system. Uaeblogging wrote on Twitter: "Places that I will definitely resume visiting, thanks to Dubai Metro: Deira city centre. It's been almost four years." SiliconO wrote: "My son is anxious to forego Eid holidays and be back in time for Dubai Metro." AutoMiddleEast said: "Never thought I'd get excited about public transport, but I'm looking forward to Dubai's Metro system opening."
The Metro has been the subject of a huge publicity drive in recent weeks with the catchphrase "My city. My metro" appearing on billboards and in TV ads. The eight-figure contract was awarded to Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the world's leading advertising firms. About 10 of the planned 29 stations on the Red Line are expected to open on September 9. Trains on the route will have the capacity to ferry almost 4,000 commuters in each direction every hour. The Green Line, set to open next year, will be able to carry 19,000 people per hour.
The Metro station network will include 235 shops selling books, newspapers and magazines. A tender for a slice of the 11,000 square metres attracted 500 bids earlier this year. firstname.lastname@example.org Send your mobile videos and images of the Dubai Metro to +971 (0)50 106 3335 or email them to email@example.com