x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Use them or lose them warning on Ras Al Khaimah buses

Bus routes that connect towns and industrial areas to the city are to continue only if passenger numbers increase by December.

Waiting for the bus to Dubai at the RAK Transport Authority taxi and bus station in Ras al Khaimah.
Waiting for the bus to Dubai at the RAK Transport Authority taxi and bus station in Ras al Khaimah.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Bus routes that connect towns and industrial areas to the city are to continue only if passenger numbers increase by December.

Potential passengers suggest those goals would have a better chance at success if the buses had more city stops and a clearly posted schedule.

Jason Farhat, director of commercial and investment affairs for the RAK Transport Authority (Rakta), said the three pilot routes launched in June met three quarters of the summer targets - but those numbers will need to improve over the winter.

"We are gaining on a daily basis. We are here to provide a service to the public and we will do whatever it takes to provide that service within the highest standards, taking into consideration, of course, the demand," he said.

The three routes are a much-needed alternative for low-income residents in rural and industrial area who had had to rely on private taxi services since share-taxis were stopped in 2007. Bus tickets cost Dh5; taxi fares for the same routes vary from Dh35 to Dh70.

But some taxi passengers said they are reluctant to switch to buses because timings are unclear and more stops are needed.

The 35-passenger buses run from the Nakheel station behind the Dubai Islamic Bank building on Muntasir Street from 6am until 9pm.

The six-stop north coast route runs from Nakheel station to the towns of Al Rams and Sha'am.

The interior route runs from Nakheel to the RAK Airport, with stops at Al Saqr Park, the Digdaga police station and Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries (Julphar).

The south coast route runs from Nakheel to the RAK Airport, with stops at the Cove Rotana and RAK Ceramics near Al Hamra Mall.

Rakta says buses leave from the Nakheel station at 6am, 7.30am, 9am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2.30pm, 4pm, 5.30pm, 7pm and 8.30pm.

But some bus users dispute this, saying times are less frequent.

Timings and route maps have not been posted online or at bus stops because they are temporary and subject to change, Mr Farhat said.

"At the end of the year we will evaluate and see if there is extra demand or other alternatives," Mr Farhat said. "So far the demand wasn't as expected because of summer, Ramadan months and Eid."

Shalami Peries, 29, a cleaner from Sri Lanka, has cut her monthly transport bills in half by taking the Al Hamra bus. She pays Dh30 for a round trip because she must take a taxi from her home to Nakheel.

"If they were stopping in some other places it would be better for us," she said. "They're going straight and coming straight. Otherwise bus is comfortable, it's OK."

Paul Crary, 24, an American who lives south of RAK in Al Hamra, spends hundreds of dirhams a week on taxis to the city. A round-trip can cost more than Dh100 but he has not taken the bus as he does not know where to find a schedule.

"I would prefer to use the bus but I don't know the hours," he said.

Rakta has considered expanding inter-emirate routes to include Abu Dhabi and Fujairah.

"We are making a study," Mr Farhat said. "We are contacting our partners to see the numbers of passengers coming to the emirate."

An expanded bus station for inter-emirate buses at the city outskirts in Al Dhait is to open in October.

Nizamuddin, a cleaner from India who did not give his family name, said the stops are too far apart. He said he will need to see more city routes and lower fares before he swaps his bicycle for the bus.

 

azacharias@thenational.ae

anwar@thenational.ae