Passengers will be able to ride buses in Abu Dhabi free of charge until the beginning of March, transport officials say.
Free bus travel extended
Abu Dhabi // The free ride for passengers aboard the capital's new buses will continue for another two months. The Department of Transport (DoT) announced the surprise extension on Monday. It had been expected to unveil a fare structure for the service, which was launched about six months ago. It added that although the free travel would be extended, improvements to the service would begin immediately. Saeed al Hameli, the DoT's general manager for buses, said the department decided to extend the free service until March 1 in response to requests from customers. Mr al Hameli said the fare structure had been drawn up but he would not reveal the price details, saying they would be released next month during a media campaign. He did confirm, however, that daily, weekly and monthly passes would be available. The first five of 500 wheelchair-accessible buses ordered from the German manufacturers MAN and Mercedes would arrive in Abu Dhabi on Monday and start running on Jan 25, he added. The DoT said that by the end of March, 125 buses from MAN would be in operation, raising the total number of buses in operation in the emirate to 450, including refurbished ones from the older fleet and 115 of the newer ones that have been plying the roads since June. By the end of next year, that number is expected to rise to 760. The department added two new city routes last week, for a total of nine. Three more are planned for the first quarter of next year, said Mr al Hameli, who said the DoT was still looking at ways to enhance the service. "We will be studying express routes, 24-hour routes and some routes would be added based on a detailed survey," he said. Routes connecting the city to Sheikh Khalifa City and the towns of Al Mafraq and Al Falah are planned. Improvements are also in the works for the routes from Mussafah, Baniyas and Shahama, as well as the ones to Abu Dhabi International Airport and between the capital and Al Ain. Mr al Hameli said the bus service was transporting about 50,000 people a day, but he hoped the new routes would raise the number to between 70,000 and 80,000. Many people said they were in favour of paying a small fare, believing it would lead to better service - and less crowding on the popular service. "People are getting on the bus even when they are travelling a short distance, which they can walk," said Mohammed Saeed, 24, adding that he thought the fare for one trip should be Dh2. Tarek Chelmeran, 29, a doctor, said he used taxis instead of buses. "It's too crammed" in the buses, said Mr Chelmeran, who also suggested there was not enough available information about the service, such as routes and pick-up times. Mr al Hameli said the environment could benefit from residents leaving their cars at home a couple days a week and catching a bus instead. "We are focusing on developing the service, developing the behaviour of using public transport and reducing the number of cars, which will reflect better on environment," he said, noting that the DoT was also looking at using alternative fuels for the vehicles. The department plans to install 170 bus shelters by next summer, some of which will be air-conditioned, and by 2010 there will be 37 bus stations and six maintenance depots in the emirate. Customers can call 800 55555 for information about the bus service or to make suggestions. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com