x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Residents enthused by their new Marina station

The station could alter the daily habits of the 80,000 residents living in the Marina, JLT and the Jumeirah Beach Residences.

Passengers enjoy the train ride.
Passengers enjoy the train ride.

DUBAI // For more than a year, Abdul el Ah has looked down from the balcony of his Jumeirah Lakes Towers apartment at the Dubai Marina Metro station slowly taking shape beneath him - from dust to a shell that was eventually covered by the distinctive golden sleeve marking every Metro station. Until yesterday, all Metro trains sped through the station, continuing to other stops that had already been completed.

That was until just after 2pm yesterday, when a group of close to 30 people stood waiting under the beating sun at the entrance to the station, impatient to explore another way to connect the outlying marina to the rest of the city. One worker at the station said the first group of Metro riders was "a mixed bag of passengers - young and old." Yesterday afternoon, Mr el Ah got his first close-up of the station that had slowly evolved beneath his balcony. He hopped on and got off three stations later to get a haircut.

Just as it could alter the daily habits of the 80,000 residents living in the Marina, JLT and the Jumeirah Beach Residences, Mr el Ah said the opening of the station would change his lifestyle - even if he admitted he was still in love with his car. The Metro would be his mode of transport on weekends, he said, and he was just as grateful for the footbridge linking his neighbourhood with other parts of the marina.

"It has opened up a whole lot of new options for me," said the 21-year-old Syrian, who works as an assistant purchasing manager at Emirates Towers. "Before, if I wanted to drive to the Marina or take a taxi it could take up to 20 minutes. Now with the footbridge open, I will be able to just walk across and meet up with my friends, hang out at night, smoke shisha or do whatever. It is a new part of city life for me."

Bret Langlan, 31, from the United States, lives in a one-bedroom apartment next to the station. "It will be great," he said. "Right now, I am going to use it at weekends because I don't have to drive and it is a lot more relaxing. I've time to kill. When the Trade Centre station opens [on May 15] I will start taking it to work." The station also acted as a link for those living outside the Marina yesterday.

Blandine Kologo, 32, and Pascal Niffoi, 36, who are from France, took the chance to explore the Marina. "We thought the Marina station wasn't open but the lady at the information desk said it opened today," Ms Kologo said. "We have been using the Metro all week to get around and we wanted to explore the Marina. We think we are lucky the station opened today because we fly back to France tonight."

Away from yesterday's casual weekend Metro crowd, the real test for the Marina station is likely to come tomorrow morning, when commuters head to work. Officials expect a rise of an additional 65,000 commuters from the seven new stations - how many of those will be travelling through the Marina station remains to be seen. In the dense network of restaurants and other food outlets packed around the Marina, optimism reigned yesterday.

Schalk Pienaar, the manager of the Surf and Turf restaurant on Dubai Marina Walk, which is two minutes from the station, said: "Parking around here is a bit of an issue, so if more people pass by, the better it is for business. "It will have an effect on business now. I am not sure about the summer but I would say there could be a 15 per cent increase in business right now." Next door, at Stefano's restaurant, the manager, George John, said he hoped business could increase by 10 to 20 per cent. "It is busy here at night and a lot of our customers come down here in a taxi. If there is a Metro station at the top of the street, it should benefit us.

"The station opens up New Dubai to people who would never consider coming down here." @Email:eharnan@thenational.ae