x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai awards VDL with Dh1.9bn bus contract

The sale, which includes an eight-year maintenance deal for its Citea line of lightweight buses, marks the firm's largest order ever.

VDL, a Dutch bus manufacturer, says it will tender for business in Abu Dhabi after announcing a 518-bus deal worth Dh1.9 billion (US$517.7m) with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) Tuesday. The deal, which includes an eight-year maintenance contract, is the firm's largest order and its first in the Middle East, giving it a foothold in a region experiencing a boom in public transport projects. "The global economic downturn has shrunk opportunities in developed markets," said Wim van der Leegte, the president and director of VDL Group, based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. "We are excited about our entry into the Middle East." Dubai and Abu Dhabi are embarking on comprehensive plans to develop their own mass transit systems including metros, trams, buses, water taxis, ferries and new roads and bridges. In Dubai, the RTA operates between 600 and 700 buses and expects to increase this to 2,000 by the time the metro's Red Line opens in September. In Abu Dhabi, the Department of Transport expects to have 1,360 buses on the road by the end of next year, up from several hundred currently. VDL would begin delivering the first of its Citea buses to the RTA next week at a rate of several hundred a month, officials said. The company's local partner in the venture is Swaidan Trading, part of the Al Naboodah Group. Financing for the deal, split between a cost of Dh845.7m for the buses and a Dh1.05bn maintenance contract, was arranged through Emirates NBD bank. VDL buses will be used as part of a feeder network of services for the Dubai metro. Separately, Daimler Buses won a contract to provide 260 Mercedes-Benz Citaro city buses, also to be used to serve the metro. VDL and Daimler sealed the contracts during the global economic slowdown as the RTA fast-tracked services to support its much anticipated metro. However, other bus manufacturers have said that proposed deals with the RTA to serve other parts of the Dubai transport system have not materialised. A plan to purchase about 800 double-decker and articulated buses from MAN, Volvo and Scania, first announced by the RTA in Nov 2007, had not resulted in any firm commitments, the manufacturers said. VDL said it hoped to capitalise on its success in Dubai by entering the Abu Dhabi market. The Government's plans include putting out to tender another round of bus contracts after recently confirming deals with MAN and Mercedes-Benz for 500 city buses and long-distance coaches reportedly worth more than Dh1bn. The VDL Citea is a 12-metre long city bus with a capacity of 68 passengers and includes air conditioning and facilities for people with special needs. Its diesel engines comply with Euro-4 and Euro-5 emission standards. igale@thenational.ae First anniversary for buses, A6