x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Laid-back commuters risk long queues on opening day

Pre-paid cards are on sale but potential Metro riders say they are waiting for more information about the system before parting with their money.

DUBAI // With fewer than six days before the opening of the Metro, commuters seem willing to risk long queues by buying their pre-paid passes on opening day. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has added 17 outlets to its list of ticket sellers and there will be plenty available next Wednesday, when the Red Line partially opens. But there could be long queues if everyone leaves it to the last moment.

"Cards went on sale two weeks ago and there are tons out there for everybody so there will be no shortage," said Peyman Younes Parham, director of marketing and corporate communications at the RTA. The first pre-paid card to be available, the Silver Nol, or Silver Fare, can be used on the Metro, buses and water taxis and will be valid from Wednesday. It has been on sale at RTA service centres and, yesterday, branches of Spinneys, Carrefour and Waitrose supermarkets, and Redha al Ansari Exchanges, were added to the list of outlets.

But many future Metro travellers said they would buy their cards on the day they first used it. "I don't think I will get any special fare for buying one now and I don't even know how much it will cost or what stations are open," said Khalish Chandran, an Indian. Kate Gibson, from Britain, complained about a lack of information on the Metro despite its opening being so near. "There are advertisements on the radio and some articles in the newspapers, but they don't tell me how much it will cost," she said.

"I know there will be cards like the Oyster card in London but I'm not sure how they will operate. I suppose I'll find out on the day I use it." The Silver Nol card is the first of three cards. The others, not yet available, will be gold, giving access to the high-end gold-class carriages on the Metro, and blue, for students and senior citizens. The blue cards must be applied for through the RTA.

The Nol cards can be topped up at RTA service centres, station ticket booths and machines, and where the Nol card was originally purchased. Silver cards will be valid for five years and can be topped up to as much as Dh500 (US$136) on their second refill. They cost Dh20 and come with Dh14 worth of silver-class travel. The remaining Dh6 is a one-off fee for the card. For a trip under 3km in one of the five zones on a bus, the Metro or both, passengers will pay Dh1.80 with the Nol card. Longer journeys inside the zones will cost Dh2.30 with a Nol card and Dh2.50 otherwise. Travel outside the zones will be pro-rated.

A journey within any one of the zones will cost Dh2.30 on a Nol card, or Dh2.50 for a regular ticket. It will cost Dh4.10 on a Silver Nol card to travel through two zones, and Dh4.50 for a ticket. Any journey that passes through three zones or more will cost Dh5.80 with the card and Dh6.50 with a ticket. Yesterday, when the Waitrose supermarket in Marina Mall sold its first Nol card, to a reporter from The National, staff were at first mystified by the request, but a manager was quick to complete the sale.

A gold-class trip within one zone will cost Dh3.60 on a Gold Nol card or Dh4 using a ticket. A trip across three zones or more in gold class will cost Dh11.60. A range of other cards will go on sale after next week's launch, including a two-zone, 30-day adult pass that will cost Dh180, and a three-zone unlimited pass, which will cost Dh270. A one-zone pass will cost Dh100. A 30-day student pass will cost Dh170, and a 30-day senior pass Dh200.

The RTA plans to introduce technology that will allow mobile-phone SIM cards to hold fares so they will be able to activate the Metro gates. The pre-paid cards can also be used to pay for parking at three Metro stations. Commuters have 30 minutes between journeys to keep a fare active. eharnan@thenational.ae