x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Metro's three new stations quiet on first working day

GGICO, Noor Islamic Bank and World Trade Centre stations, which opened on Saturday, passed their first big test when Dubai returned to work.

DUBAI // Three new Metro stations that opened on Saturday passed their first big test when the city returned to work yesterday. GGICO, Noor Islamic Bank and World Trade Centre provided commuters with an opportunity to reach previously inaccessible areas of the Dh29 billion (US$7.9bn) driverless public transport system. On his day off, Varghes Keechera made a trial run of the route he plans to take from his home in Satwa to his job in Mirdif City Centre. The 37-year-old Indian set off on a feeder bus to World Trade Centre station, then caught the Metro to Rashidiya.

"You save a lot of time on the Metro," said Mr Keechera, an electrical engineer, after his trial run. "Buses can take an hour. When the traffic's bad, taxis take an hour." His trip had taken 30 minutes by Metro, he said. Most important, however, was the money he would save. He reckoned that by not laying out Dh60 (US$16) a day on taxis, he would save more than Dh1,000 a month. "I'm going to save so I can send the money to my family," said Mr Keechera, whose wife and two young children live in India.

The new stations were generally quiet. At 8.30am, no passengers got on or off a train that stopped at Noor Islamic Bank, formerly known as Al Quoz. Around noon, there were only about half a dozen passengers using World Trade Centre. At least one escalator and the air conditioning in the footbridge spanning Sheikh Zayed Road were not operating. Officials at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai's transportation regulator, did not respond to requests for comment.

However, such glitches did not dampen the enthusiasm of Mansour Sajjadi, 54, a businessman visiting from London. He was pleased with the advantages that the station offered. "I'm here on business every couple of months, and since the Metro's opened it's become a lot easier to travel," he said. "Of course, it's easier to get taxis now than it was two years ago. But the Metro is inexpensive and there are more stations opening, so it's a more convenient option."

Some passengers using the new stations were critical of the RTA. A 26-year-old Portuguese man, who identified himself only as Manuel, said the regulator should provide better information. "Their customer service is very poor," he said. "You try to call and no one gets back to you." But because he was unable to obtain a driving licence, the Metro was "useful", he said. The three new stations bring the number in service on the Red Line to 21 of the 29 planned stops. hnaylor@thenational.ae