x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Transport projects aim to go the extra mile

Projects such as the Al Sufouh tram will connect existing networks in an effort to further cut reliance on the car.

The Dh3.2bn Al Sufouh tram project, which will run from Dubai Marina through Media City and up to Knowledge Village when completed in 2014, is among several projects aimed at cutting reliance on cars.
The Dh3.2bn Al Sufouh tram project, which will run from Dubai Marina through Media City and up to Knowledge Village when completed in 2014, is among several projects aimed at cutting reliance on cars.

DUBAI // Salmin Sheriff used to start each day in frustration: behind the wheel of his car, in traffic that crept forward at a snail's pace.

Speaking yesterday on Public Transport Day, the theatre writer and director said he now enjoys a stress-free journey.

"The Metro has made a big difference to my life," said the Indian national, who also runs an advertising agency. "The Green Line means I can go to virtually any place I want by rail. It's a godsend."

The Green Line, which opened in September with 18 stations, gives users access to the Creek area of the city, while the Red Line and its 29 stations run much of the length of Sheikh Zayed Road. Not only is the Metro more environmentally friendly and affordable than a car, but Mr Sheriff said it gave people of different backgrounds the chance to mix.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) wants to raise the percentage of trips made using public transport from the present 9.5 per cent to 30 per cent by 2030. To do this the RTA will spend Dh44 billion on infrastructure over the next decade, adding 500 kilometres to the public transport network.

Also on the cards is the Dh3.2bn Al Sufouh tram project, which will run along a 13-stop route from Dubai Marina through Media City and up to Knowledge Village when completed in 2014.

The system would connect existing transport networks, including the Dubai Metro and the Palm Monorail on Palm Jumeirah. It would link with the Metro's Red Line at two stops, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Dubai Marina, according to the RTA.

The RTA's bus fleet has expanded to about 1,500, and almost 1,000 air-conditioned shelters have been built across the city.

These options, along with the authority's fleet of water taxis, mean almost everywhere in the city will be reachable without using a car.

Dr Cedwyn Fernandes, an associate professor in economics and international business at Middlesex University in Dubai, described the implementation of the Metro as an outstanding achievement.

"The biggest challenge in making public transport a mode of choice would be how to connect the last mile," he said. "In the summer months, would people really wait in the heat for a bus that drops you a five-minute walk away from your workplace?"

Peter Sanchez, a Filipino store worker who lives in Bur Dubai, said buses needed to take fewer detours. "Things have really improved a lot over the last few years but there are still some problems," he said.

Meanwhile, in the capital, the Department of Transport (DoT) plans to more than double its bus fleet from 600 to 1,360 by 2013 and to introduce 123 routes by December, up from 70 routes this year. These plans include 70 new stops in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia.

An additional 380 air-conditioned bus shelters will join the existing 81, and almost 50km of bus lanes will be demarcated on Abu Dhabi's three main roads by the end of 2012.

The DoT is also planning a host of links to Abu Dhabi's 200-plus islands over the next 10 to 20 years. Building on the success of the Delma Island ferry service that started in March 2010, the DoT plans to introduce services on Reem Island and the Corniche in 2013. Routes to Yas Island, Saadiyat, Sowwah and Lulu islands will follow.

On land, preliminary designs for an Abu Dhabi metro and downtown light-rail transit (LRT) are likely to be released by summer next year. The first LRT segment could be operational by 2016, and the metro by 2020.

A feasibility study into a high-speed rail link between Dubai and Al Ain will be completed by the end of the year.

Although progress has been slower in rural areas of the UAE, these will be served by minibuses and taxi services ordered through a call centre by 2016.

nhanif@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Anna Zacharias