x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

RTA delays opening final Metro stations

Some of eight remaining Red Line stations stay closed because of low projected passenger numbers and lack of nearby development.

The Sharaf DG Metro Red Line station in Dubai.
The Sharaf DG Metro Red Line station in Dubai.

DUBAI // Transport chiefs have delayed the opening of some of the final eight Red Line stations on the Dubai Metro. The delay has been caused by low projected numbers of probable users and a lack of development around some stations, said Ramadan Mohammed, the director of rail operations at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Earlier, the RTA had said that the stations would be open this autumn.

"We will open some stations by the end of the year, in the fourth quarter," Mr Mohammed said. "Some stations we may keep closed longer. All eight will not be opened at the same time. It will depend on the ridership figures we get. We are constantly getting data." The stations that will remain closed have been identified based on a lack of expansion in the communities around them. A final decision on the short-listed stations could come soon, Mr Mohammed said. He did not specify a date.

The RTA's marketing and communications director said in May that all 29 of the line's stations would be in full operation by October. Those that have not yet opened are Business Bay, First Gulf Bank, Sharaf DG, Nakheel, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Energy Station, Jebel Ali Industrial and Jebel Ali. Of those, only Sharaf DG and Jumeirah Lakes Towers are near residential areas. Eleven additional Red Line stations have opened this year after the initial "soft" launch with 10 stops in September last year. At 52km, the Dh29 billion system will be the world's longest driverless rail system when complete. Its total number of passengers since it began service passed the 23 million mark in July.

News that the Red Line will not be fully operational this year disappointed some commuters who were looking forward to having open stations closer to home. Tanya Rehmani, a 23-year-old Pakistani who lives near the Sharaf DG station, was surprised that the entire Red Line would not be running this year. "It cannot be so. They had given a deadline," she said. "We should trust them that they will open."

Ms Rehmani's family bought an apartment near the station in March, believing it would open soon. She now takes a taxi to the nearby Mall of the Emirates station to get to work in a downtown trading company. Other commuters wondered which stations would go into service first, given that the opening of the remaining stations rested on the pace of development around them. "They may start whatever, whichever stations, but I hope Business Bay is one of them," said Sami Kher, the owner of an electronics shop near the unopened stop. "Every time a station opens we hope it was this one close to us. It will mean more customers, more business." Those expectations seemed valid considering Metro passenger numbers, which were averaging 120,000 a day on weekdays and 130,000 a day on weekends, Mr Mohammed said. Those figures will probably continue to rise once the Green Line opens. While the Green Line opening is on track for August next year, the initial number of its stations also hinges on anticipated usage, Mr Mohammed said. There are 20 stations planned on the line, including where it intersects with the Red Line at the Burjuman and Union Square stops. "All the Green Line stations will be ready but it depends on ridership," Mr Mohammed said. "If you look at Jadaff station there is no development, there is no construction around it for opening this station." See the latest interactive maps and features for the metro at www.thenational.ae/metro

rtalwar@thenational.ae