x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Dubai Metro banks on low fares for success

Passengers on the Dubai Metro will be able to glide from one end of the city to the other for as little as Dh5.80.

DUBAI // Passengers on the Dubai Metro will be able to glide from one end of the city to the other for as little as Dh5.80 (US$1.60), officials said yesterday. That would make the public transit system one of the most affordable to ride in the world, according to the Roads and Transport Authority, comparable to those of Cairo and Singapore, and several times cheaper than Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York City.

"The price will make it attractive to use buses and the Metro, and it is also a very luxurious and comfortable way to travel," said Mattar Mohammed al Tayer, the authority's executive director and chairman of the board. A single journey of less than three kilometres will cost Dh2 if paid for with a paper ticket, or Dh1.80 if the passenger uses a prepaid card. A journey within any one of five zones in the city will cost Dh2.50 for a ticket, or Dh2.30 on a card. Travelling through two zones will cost Dh4.50 for a ticket and Dh4.10 on a card; a trip from one end of Dubai to the other, or any journey crossing three or more zones, will cost Dh6.50 with a ticket and Dh5.80 using a card.

Registered students and senior citizens will pay 90 fils for a journey of less than three kilometres, and a maximum of Dh2.90 for the longest trips. Passengers in "gold class" carriages will pay Dh4 for a short journey with a paper ticket, and Dh3.60 with a card; longer journeys will cost Dh13 and Dh11.60 respectively. Bus fares will depend on the length of the journey, rather than the current flat fare of Dh2. Travellers will be able to change from the Metro to a bus or water taxi without paying another fare.

The RTA will also provide three multi-storey car parks at Jebel Ali, Al Qusais and Rashidiya, which public transport passengers will be able to use for free. Other motorists will have to pay. Mr al Tayer said that fares would remain fixed "for some time", and that the Metro would operate at a loss, subsidised by the Dubai Government. "I can assure you, the ticket prices will not even cover our maintenance and operating costs.

"All over the world, you never make a profit from public transport - if you can recover 45 to 50 per cent of your capital investment you are doing OK. "Maybe in some years time it will break even, but making a profit is a different story. "The Dubai Government will finance RTA operations - we are of course looking for private partners to invest in future projects, but we will not be looking at increasing the fees."

The prepaid travel cards, called "Nol" ("fare"), will go on sale when the Metro opens, he said. There will be three different types: silver, which can be used immediately for most journeys, gold, which will allow users to travel in the Gold Class carriages, and blue, which will be personalised with a photo of the user and can be used for discount fares. Ramadan Abdulla Mohammed, director of the unified card department at the RTA, said that in cities such as Hong Kong, 90 to 95 per cent of people using public transport used an electronic card.

He said the Metro prices were intended to persuade people in Dubai to follow suit. He said the RTA wanted 30 per cent of Dubai's population using public transport. Planners hoped for the system to be used for about 600,000 trips each day. @Email:gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae