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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

'At last - relief!': Bus passengers' joy at new air-conditioned shelters

Commuters get chance of respite from the 'disastrous' summer heat

People try to shade from the heat on Sultan bin Zayed the First Street, where a new air-conditioned shelter will be built opposite the Abu Dhabi Bus Terminal. Chris Whiteoak / The National
People try to shade from the heat on Sultan bin Zayed the First Street, where a new air-conditioned shelter will be built opposite the Abu Dhabi Bus Terminal. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Plans to build 100 air-conditioned bus shelters on Abu Dhabi transport routes will bring relief for sweltering commuters, who are now calling for more to be installed.

On Saturday, the Department of Transport announced the shelters will be built across the city by the end of the year.

The largest of the stops is already under construction opposite Abu Dhabi’s main bus terminal on Sultan bin Zayed the First Street, where dozens of buses pass every hour.

The new unit will hold 60 people at a time and is expected to be finished in a few weeks.

While workers toil at the site, people must, for now, wait outside in the summer heat.

Jane Garcia, a Filipina who was waiting at the main stop, said: “I take the bus twice a day. It’s very convenient, but in the summer heat, when the bus does not come on time, I sometimes take a taxi.

“This costs me a lot and so the air-conditioned shelter will make a big difference.”

The long summer is usually the hardest time for bus users, who have often raised concerns over the broken air-conditioning at many shelters.

Commuter Brain Ekole welcomed the plans for 100 shelters, and said more footbridges were also needed. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Commuter Brain Ekole welcomed the plans for 100 shelters, and said more footbridges were also needed. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Brain Ekole, from Cameroon, who was also waiting at the stop on Tuesday, used to be a taxi driver and recalls some of the older shelters being demolished to make way for the new units.

“I used to feel the pain of the people standing under the sun. But now they are building these new shelters – the air-conditioning is good and there should be more of them.”

Mr Ekole also called for more footbridges near bus stops so people can cross the road in safety.

“The distance between [footbridges] and bus stops can be long. More of them are needed,” he said, mopping his brow because of the high humidity.

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About 53 million bus rides were taken in the capital last year – a three per cent increase on 2016 — and transport chiefs are trying to encourage more people to use public transport.

About 30 of the new shelters are already in use, with outdoor shading and seats, bus timetables and top-up machines for Hafilat cards.

At least 20 are to be housed in repurposed shipping containers.

“We need air-conditioning and recharge machines at every bus stop,” said one passenger, who did not wish to named.

“In winter, I try to walk as much as possible, but summer is a disaster with the heat,” said the Polish national.

A new bus shelter is being built on Sultan bin Zayed the First Street, Abu Dhabi, to accommodate up to 60 people. Chris Whiteoak / The National
A new bus shelter is being built on Sultan bin Zayed the First Street, Abu Dhabi, to accommodate up to 60 people. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Banyan, another public bus user, from Jordan, said she made a return trip to Yas Island every day. The trip is more than an hour each way.

“It’s very hot now especially when the bus is late, so the shelters are a good idea," she said.

The 130 existing shelters in the city are also being revamped. About 600 new shelters in total are planned across the emirate by 2020.

More announcements about improvements to the public bus service are expected in the next few months.

There are about 4,000 bus stops across the emirate of Abu Dhabi and a rechargeable card must be used to take the bus. Fares start at Dh2.