Today hopeful engineering firms from around the world will submit statements of interest in building the first stage of Abu Dhabi's eagerly awaited metro and light rail network. Companies believed to be interested include German giant Siemens, US-based Bechtel and South Korea's Samsung Engineering.
As The National reported on Monday, the successful bidder is to be announced in March, with construction to start soon after.
This Dh7 billion infrastructure project is undoubtedly good news for the economy, the environment and the people of Abu Dhabi.
True, this version - 18km of metro, mostly underground, plus another 18km in two light-rail lines, opening beginning in 2016 - 17 - is considerably scaled down from the original vision: 131km of metro and light rail line, to be opened in 2015.
But as with so much development in Abu Dhabi and the UAE, the point is in the determination to keep making progress.
As the whole world knows, the economic climate changed sharply not long after that first vision was unveiled. By setting this new timetable, the Abu Dhabi Government has sent a message that the economy is emerging surely and steadily from the global financial crisis, and that it is committed to making travel around the ever-growing capital easier, quicker, safer and more environmentally friendly. Moves already made in that direction include further extension of public bus services in April this year. And there is even talk of a bicycle-path network.
Around the world, first-rate public transit is a hallmark of first-rate cities. When completed, the Abu Dhabi metro is expected to help limit private-vehicle traffic in the capital and save commuters 102 million hours of travel time a year. It should also reduce vehicle emissions and improve road safety. It is estimated that the public-transport system will serve 823,000 passengers a day by 2030, and prevent 23,000 road accidents a year.
Construction will be inconvenient for many, but that's nothing new in the fast-growing capital. Abu Dhabi residents will have seen the success of the Dubai Metro, used by so many residents from all walks of life.
The UAE has proven since its inception that tangible progress is made with measured steps. This world-class infrastructure project is the latest example of an idea whose time has come.