x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Fleet of 300 buses to run F1 shuttles

After the Grand Prix vehicles used to transport racing fans will go into regular service on the capital's street.

New public buses will carry Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ticket holders to events free of charge.
New public buses will carry Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ticket holders to events free of charge.

ABU DHABI // About 300 buses will carry Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ticket holders to events free of charge during the capital's inaugural race weekend, a high-ranking transport official said yesterday. The buses, some of which will be going into service for the first time, will help race-goers to get on and around Yas Island for both the race and its concurrent events. And when the Formula One cars and the crowds have gone, many of the buses will go into regular service on the capital's streets, according to Saeed al Hameli, the general manager of the public bus office at the Department of Transport. Buses will be added to some existing routes, he said, and four new routes will be added.

The department is working closely with Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management (ADMM) and the police to run services from the car park on Yas Island to the event. "We will also be running services from Abu Dhabi Island to Yas Island from various locations," Mr al Hameli added. The park-and-ride locations have not been finalised, but he said there would be various spots where Grand Prix attendees would be able to park their cars and ride buses to Yas Marina.

Richard Cregan, the chief executive of ADMM, said on Monday that locations for park-and-ride facilities were still being drawn up and that the full transport plan for the Grand Prix was likely to be announced next week. The race preparation is a huge undertaking for transport planners as 60,000 people a day are expected to flock to the island from October 29 to November 1. Police plan to make travel announcements in the week leading up to the event, including road closures and detours. They are also setting up a website to provide travel updates and advice on routes.

About 70 per cent of the buses that will serve the Grand Prix will be new, German-manufactured vehicles, part of the 500 ordered from the firms MAN and Mercedes, Mr al Hameli said. Deals were struck last year for MAN to provide 250 city buses and 150 coaches, while Mercedes provided 100 city buses. The first 25 MAN city buses are running on routes Seven and Five in Abu Dhabi, while 50 Mercedes buses are plying four routes in Al Ain. About 70 buses are in use on the island's streets at present.

More of those buses have arrived and will take to the streets for the race weekend, Mr al Hameli said, without specifying a number. They will then be integrated into the island's bus network. The 12-metre, air-conditioned buses can seat 34 passengers and carry about 65 altogether. Each bus has a wheelchair ramp and five closed-circuit television cameras. By the end of the year four new routes would be added on Abu Dhabi Island, taking the total number to 13, Mr al Hameli said. The department is on track to have 21 routes serving Abu Dhabi by the end of next year, he said.

The routes have not been finalised but the Department is considering to have buses run to and from Khalidiya Mall, as well as creating new links from the al Bateen area. Mr al Hameli said the new routes would help provide better connectivity through the network. "Now we need to enter within the blocks, within those existing routes to make it more accessible," he said. "We are planning on exchanging old buses with the new buses," he said. "Then we need to make some express route links to shorten the journey and to distribute the crowds and to provide more comfort in the long journey. The buses carry about 88,000 passengers on the island daily, more than half the department's goal of 150,000.

"New buses give people confidence," Mr al Hameli said. "A lot of people have started using the bus now from the Tourist Club to Marina Mall. It has become reliable and better comfort than a car itself where you don't find parking." The department has also launched new routes for the suburb of Shahama, linking it with Samha and Rahba. New routes are also planned for Al Ain before the end of the year.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, meanwhile, plans to open six visitor centres around the capital to offer information about the grand prix, the state news agency, WAM, reported. One will open in the arrivals hall of Abu Dhabi International Airport on October 4, and one each at the Yas Marina Circuit, Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and Al Wahda Mall on October 24. The final centre will be part of an "arrivals experience" serving the cruise ships at Mina Zayed, with immigration services, duty-free shops included in an Arabian tent structure.

Also, touch-screen kiosks will be installed at Al Bawardi Mall in Al Ain and the Shangri-La hotel at Qary'at al Beri, bringing the number of kiosks in the emirate to 26. Two more are planned for Yas Island and the Qasr al Sarab retreat in the Liwa Desert early next year. "Ease of access to destination information can lift the entire visitor experience, particularly in the lead-up to, during and the immediate post period of an important event," Saeed al Dhaheri, the tourism authority's visitor information manager, said in a statement.

mchung@thenational.ae