x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Al Sufouh tramway project rides again

In-ground electric power system makes its debut as construction continues on first phase around Media City and Dubai Marina.

Work resumes on an elevated section of the Al Sufouh tram project that will run through the Dubai Marina area and Sheikh Zayed Road. Construction was delayed by the global economic slump. Duncan Chard for The National
Work resumes on an elevated section of the Al Sufouh tram project that will run through the Dubai Marina area and Sheikh Zayed Road. Construction was delayed by the global economic slump. Duncan Chard for The National

DUBAI // The Dh3.2 billion Al Sufouh tram project in Dubai is back on track with work due to be completed by the end of 2014, it was announced yesterday.

Representatives from Alstom, the French engineering company handling the project, said yesterday at the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) Mobility and City Transport Exhibition that construction had resumed with some changes to the original plan and a renewed focus on prompt completion.

"There is a clear message from the RTA [Roads and Transport Authority] that it is to be delivered in the fastest time possible," said Vincent Prou, general manager of Alstom's Dubai branch. "There have been a few technical changes to the project that will make the Al Sufouh tram better than it was actually previously planned to be."

The project, initially scheduled for completion this year, was delayed when the global economic crisis hit.

"The overall development of Dubai had to adapt to the economic world crisis situation," Mr Prou said. "In that context the project had to be realigned, but now Alstom and Besix, our partner in the project, are working to deliver."

The RTA entrusted the consortium of Alstom and Besix with the construction of the tramway project in 2008. Dubai will be the first city in the GCC to have a complete and fully functioning tramway system, when construction is completed.

The first phase of the project involves supplying 11 Citadis trams, each 40 metres long, and a 10km track with 13 stations. Each tram will have a capacity of about 400 passengers.

The tram system will be the first in the world to be fully powered by an electric system installed in the ground. Power is fed to the tram as it passes overhead, but stops when it moves away, allowing pedestrians to walk in the area safely. The technology has been in use in France for the past seven years, but is making its debut in the MENA region with Al Sufouh tram.

The tram's first phase will include tracks along Al Sufouh Road in front of Knowledge Village and Media City, looping around the Dubai Marina. The second will involve a further 4km of track and six stations, reaching the Burj Al Arab Hotel and the Mall of the Emirates.

But for those who have endured roadworks and diversions along Al Sufouh Road since the project began, 2014 is still a long way away.

"This project was supposed to be finished some time this year and now we all have to wait until 2014?" asked Lillie Boroni, 40, an Italian housewife living in the affected area. "There are so many detours and turns and in some places where I used to be able to make a U-turn, now I can't. The RTA has to find a way of either finishing the tram thing faster, or at least rerouting traffic more efficiently while construction is going on."

For others, news of the project's resumption again was met with relief.

"I was wondering what had happened," said Mazen Hourani, 51, a Jordanian engineer who lives and works near the Dubai Marina.

"I'm pleased the works are back on. I am sure I will be using it all the time."

ealghalib@thenational.ae