x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

New routes to revitalise life on the outskirts

A taxi service for Al Bahia and Shahama will help revitalise communities along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway.

Construction along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway.
Construction along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway.

ABU DHABI // A new taxi service that will serve residents of Al Bahia and Shahama is intended to help to revitalise communities along the Abu Dhabi-Dubai motorway. The Urban Planning Council (UPC) and the Emirates Foundation, one of the UAE's leading philanthropic institutions, is launching the service in response to calls from residents for better access to transportation, the state news agency WAM reported.

The service, for which residents appealed at a community workshop in June, will also serve the neighbouring areas of Al Rahba, Shilaila and Samha between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. "The UPC is pleased that the taxi services are being implemented so quickly in these communities," WAM quoted Falah al Ahbabi, the general manager of UPC, as saying. "The residents have told us what they need for revitalisation and we agree that improved transportation is central to our overall objectives."

The starting date for the service has not been announced, but it will be launched in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport. Metered taxis dispatched from the Shahama bus station will be overseen by TransAD, the emirate's taxi regulator. "The transportation need was apparent and we're hopeful that the community residents will immediately reap the benefit of the enhanced services," said Ahmed Ali al Sayegh, the managing director of the Emirates Foundation. The taxis are part of wider development plans for the area, launched by the UPC in June, which will see the introduction of some key facilities and the upgrading of others. Thousands of Emiratis and expatriates live in Al Bahia and Shahama, about 25km north of Abu Dhabi city centre, and some commute daily to Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

Many complain of a lack of basic services and infrastructure. Anees, 18, an Indian who works at Shahama Supermarket, said residents had difficulty getting transport to and from Abu Dhabi city. This would be eased by the new taxi service, he said, but he hoped it would be affordable. Details of fares have not yet been released. Dick Orense, a Filipino resident of Abu Dhabi, said the service would also be a boon for expatriates living in the city who commuted to the outlying communities.

"I've had some friends who work as security guards in Shahama. They do not own cars and are forced to pay Dh25 (US$6.81) to the old gold and white taxis in Abu Dhabi for their daily commute, while the taxi ride back to the city costs a hefty Dh35 to Dh40 in the evening," he said. Mr Orense said nurses and other staff at Al Rahba Hospital also complained about the difficulty of getting taxis to and from Abu Dhabi. "They would often engage the services of these old Abu Dhabi taxis which charge them Dh40 for a one-way trip to Abu Dhabi. The new service will greatly benefit them and also residents in Shilaila and Samha," he said.

The UPC's revitalisation plan for Shahama and Bahia, focusing on better housing and facilities, as well as transportation, health care and education, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The wide-reaching plan to provide greater access to services and facilities to the communities is part of the UPC's broader Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 - a document released by the Government in 2007, outlining Abu Dhabi's industrial, residential, commercial and transport imperatives.

"Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 is designed to manage the Emirate's development through a long-term vision," said Mr Ahbabi. "Nevertheless, it does not prevent the UPC from developing and promoting urban development solutions that offer immediate viable benefits to answer residents' concerns. The new taxi service is a concrete example that speaks for itself." * The National