x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Traffic chaos causes hundreds to miss Sandance New Year celebrations

Angry revellers who missed out on New Year celebrations are demanding refunds for tickets after spending hours on shuttle buses amid traffic chaos as they attempted to reach The Palm to no avail.

Handout of world record fireworks display at The Palm - hundreds of disgruntled people complain that they were stuck in bad traffic on their way to Sandance, forcing many to abandon their buses.
Handout of world record fireworks display at The Palm - hundreds of disgruntled people complain that they were stuck in bad traffic on their way to Sandance, forcing many to abandon their buses.

DUBAI // Traffic chaos around the Palm Jumeirah caused hundreds to miss the Sandance concert on New Year’s Eve.

Revellers were told when they bought their tickets that the only way to get to the concert was on shuttle buses that would leave regularly from outside the American University of Dubai and take less than 10 minutes.

But hundreds spent hours on some of the 70 buses provided and many abandoned their plans during the journey.

The event, featuring artists such as Emeli Sande and Paul Oakenfold, was due to finish at 4am on New Year’s Day, but the shuttle buses were refused entry to the Palm from 11.30pm.

Police said the world record fireworks display and overcrowding on the Palm prompted the restriction.

The shuttle buses resumed shortly before 2am, but many ticket holders had already abandoned their plans.

Hundreds of angry messages posted on social media, demanding refunds for tickets, have been forwarded to the organisers of the popular event.

In less than 24 hours, more than 500 people had responded to Sandance’s latest Facebook post and the hashtag Sandance was trending on Twitter for much of New Year’s Day.

Sandance promised “a resolution” for fans within the next two days.

“The safety and satisfaction of our guests is our main priority and as such we worked under the guidance of our partners and the local authorities to provide an incredible New Year’s Eve experience as Dubai tried to break the world record for the largest firework display in 2013,” a spokesman said.

“We are extremely sorry that after months of preparations with the local authorities that some of our guests were not able to reach Sandance, or experienced significant traffic delays.

“Our loyal fans of Sandance know that at each festival we aim to blow away our guests with an incredible experience and great line-up.

“We regret that many guests did not experience Sandance as it was planned, and will provide a resolution for the guests that were impacted within the next 48 hours.”

Tickets cost Dh450 for a standard pass or Dh600 for VIP entry.

“Absolutely, people should be refunded,” said Mohammed Salman, who left the shuttle bus at 10.30pm and tried to reach the event on foot, but faced more delays at the tunnel in front of the Atlantis resort.

“I’ve got blisters on my feet because we had to walk from the start of Palm Jumeirah to here, now they won’t let us through the tunnel. It is completely ridiculous.”

Paul Bennet and his wife travelled to Dubai from the UK to see in the New Year at Sandance but were left disappointed.

“It really has been a shambles, complete chaos,” Mr Bennet said. “Start to finish it has been a struggle, long queues for tickets, then queues to get on the bus and now we can’t even get in.

“We knew it would be busy but were told that the bus service would have its own lane.”

Zuhaib Yacoub, from Pakistan, said: “We came from Abu Dhabi so I left at 5.30, we drove to Dubai then had to take a Metro to the [American] university to collect our tickets.

“It then took us until 8.30pm to get on the bus and by 11pm we had to get out and walk, and still couldn’t get in. This really has ruined New Year for us.”

Vhairi Walker, a Scottish journalist, boarded a bus to Atlantis from Media City at 8pm but had not reached the Palm by 10.30pm.

“It’s horrendous. We paid Dh600 and are not even on the Palm,” Ms Walker said. “People are keeping their spirits high by singing but we’re not sure what’s happening.

“A friend left one hour before we were due to leave and is just entering the tunnel on the Palm now. People are getting annoyed.

“The police have blocked a lane so people might not get to Atlantis at all, not even the buses.”

Razi Ardakani, from Iran, said the security guards on site at the American University of Dubai were “untrained and more of a problem than the solution. I think we should all be happy that something serious did not happen”.

Sandance’s social media page acknowledged the issue but organisers had yet to make a statement on refunds by Wednesday evening, although it had been reported that they would be given.

“The NYE traffic on the Palm is being controlled by Dubai Police and Nakheel. We are in touch with the authorities to smoothen the traffic. We appreciate your patience,” Sandance organisers wrote on Facebook.

“Sincere apologies about the traffic situation – we are trying our best to solve the traffic issue together with the police,” they posted on Twitter.

ksinclair@thenational.ae