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As Dubai's population continues to grow, the need has arisen for a modern transport system to alleviate growing congestion on the emirate's road.

  As Dubai’s population continues to grow, the need has arisen for a modern transport system to alleviate growing congestion on the emirate’s roads. Ben Smalley reports on the development of the Dubai Metro.

Commuting to work in Dubai invariably involves battling your way through rush-hour traffic, seething as yet another inconsiderate driver barges their way into your lane and then searching for that ever-elusive parking space within a reasonable walking distance of your office.

Imagine an altogether different scenario where you get the chance to read through the morning paper as you sit in an air-conditioned carriage effortlessly passing the traffic jams outside the window before alighting at the nearest station to your place of work. This will be the reality when the Dubai Metro revolutionises public transport in the emirate.

The Dh 14.3 billion project was recently given the go-ahead by the Higher Committee for the Dubai Rail Project following a massive public consultation exercise and design studies from Systra, one of the world’s leading international consulting engineering firms for rail and urban transport.

Qassim Sultan, Director General of Dubai Municipality and Chairman of the Higher Committee, says the light railway project is a testament to Dubai’s faith in the future, as well as a much needed, hi-tech solution to the ever-worsening problem of road congestion.

“Look around you and you will see that the vision of our leaders is truly happening,” he says. “If you have any doubts about whether Dubai needs a modern public transit infrastructure, I invite you to witness for yourself the dynamic growth that Dubai is experiencing.”

The approved design for the Dubai Metro network comprises two lines - the Red Line and the Green Line – which will run underground in the heart of the city and will be elevated on a specially designed viaduct elsewhere. Totalling 70km, the two lines will have 55 stations in all - 35 along the 50 km long Red Line, and 22 stations along the 20km long Green Line - with two ‘transfer stations’ at Al Ittihad Square and BurJuman where passengers can cross from one line to the other. Construction contracts for the extensive rail network are currently out to tender and it is anticipated the first phase of the project will be carrying passengers by 2009.

The need for the Dubai Metro has been exacerbated by the city’s increasing population, which is placing increasing strain on the road network. The population of Dubai has grown from 183,000 in 1970 to around 1.1 million today, and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.4% to reach 3 million inhabitants by 2017. Meanwhile, the growth of automobile ownership has also grown dramatically over the past ten years, at a rate of over 10% annually, which has necessitated building more and more roads.

But, according to Nasser Ahmed Saeed, Director of Dubai Municipality's Roads Department and general coordinator for the rail project, there is a limit to how many new roads you can build.

“To meet increases in travel demand during the past three decades, the municipality has built 9,100 lane km of roads at a cost of Dhs8.4 billion, and the emirate just cannot keep on expanding its roads,” he says.

A state-of-the-art urban rail transit system, as well as being a necessity as the population continues to expand, will also put Dubai on a par with other major world cities like London, Hong Kong and Paris and further develop the prestige of the most dynamic business city in the Middle East.

   Passengers using the Dubai Metro system will travel in top-of-the-range modern trains, which are fully air-conditioned and customised to meet the specific requirements of the emirate. Each train will be about 75 metres long and will consist of five cars featuring double doors to allow for a fast and smooth flow of passengers at stations. The trains will offer a standard class, including women and children only section, as well as an exclusive first class section, with total seating for 400 passengers.

With frequencies as high as one every minute and a half, the fast travelling trains will be powered using a ‘third rail’ connection system which removes the need for any visually intrusive overhead contact lines. The driverless trains will be fully automated, and the electrical traction system will be environmentally friendly in terms of noise and gas emissions. They will use either steel wheels or rubber tyres running on a special double track for full guidance and support, and all stations will be fully air-conditioned with platform screen doors for added safety.         

The largely straight Red Line will initially run from Salahuddin Road (near Al Ghurair City) to the American University of Dubai through BurJuman and Sheikh Zayed Road, and will later be extended to Jebel Ali Port in the south and the intersection of Al Nahda and Damascus roads through Al Qiyadah intersection in the north.

The horseshoe-shaped Green Line will, initially, ply between Al Ittihad Square (near Dubai Municipality) and Rashidiya bus station via Deira City Centre and Terminals 1 and 3 of the airport, and will be extended to serve the Deira and Bur Dubai central areas up to BurJuman and Wafi shopping centres. A possible extension of the Green Line from Wafi City to the upcoming Dubai Festival City development is currently under study.

In its entirety the metro system will have 18 km of tunnels, 51 km of viaduct, one major train depot and maintenance facilities site and several auxiliary stabling facilities, while the total fleet size is expected to be around 100 trains.

According to initial projections, the fully operational system will carry about 1.2 million passengers each working day with an annual total of about 355 million. An integrated smart card ticketing system will be introduced, and some bus stops, taxi stations, and park-and-ride facilities will be relocated to complement the metro.

For commuters in Dubai the light rail system promises to be a time and hassle saving means of getting around the city, while tourists and other visitors will also benefit from the ease and convenience of one of the world’s most advanced metro systems. 



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