By Shafaat Ahmed www.khaleejtimes.com
Commuters hailed the return of bus route No 91 between Al Ghubaiba Bus Station and Jebel Ali, which was reinstated on Wednesday after a hiatus of almost two years.
The popular bus route was a lifeline for hundreds of workers who were dependent on it for their daily commutation between office and home. However, much to their chagrin, the route was cancelled following the launch of Dubai Metro in September 2009.
Since then, travelling between the two areas has been a constant struggle to many, as highlighted by Khaleej Times through several of its reports. Commuters also requested the reinstatement of the service through Khaleej Times on more than one occasion.
Their prayers have been answered after a 22-month long wait as RTA made a slew of changes to its urban bus network, reinstating some of the old routes, adding new ones and modifying some others.
“We keep reviewing our services periodically, and if we find a particular route has little demand, we either reduce the trips or cancel it. On the other hand, if there is high demand for any particular service, we are happy to enhance it or reinstate it,” said Mohammed Abu Baker Al Hashemi, Director of Planning and Business Development at the Public Transport Agency of RTA.
The route was apparently cancelled in order to divert passenger traffic to the Metro. The Metro, while being a great success overall, proved to be inconvenient to this group of travellers.
“We had a lot of problems travelling by the Metro, as it required changing two buses and walking a lot. Bus route 91 is the best for us as it travels between these two areas directly,” said Gopi Nair, who travels between the two areas regularly.
Apart from the convenience, the bus service halves the travel time between the two points.
“The entire connected journey on the Metro and feeder buses used to take around 90 minutes and by bus it takes less than an hour,” said Khurram Javed, whose job requires travelling on the route almost daily.
Cancellation of the route also meant walking from Al Ghubaiba to Khalid bin Waleed Station to catch the Metro, which also proved difficult especially during the summer months. “Walking from Al Ghubaiba to Khalid bin Waleed takes at least 20 minutes, which in this summer heat is unbearable, leaving me drained before I reach office. It was both a waste of time and energy,” said Sujan Sudarshan, who works as a storekeeper in a Jebel Ali based company.
The bus route 91 runs every half an hour and starting from Bur Dubai, covers almost the entire Jebel Ali Free zone area on the other side of the trip.
Though, not many people are as yet aware of the development, there is already a lot of passenger traffic on the route, particularly during rush hours of morning and evening.
“Between six to nine in the morning and five to eight in the evening, there is a lot of rush. The buses are jam-packed during this time, while at other times the buses go almost empty. We are into just two days of the service and I think as we progress there will be greater and even more response,” said Abdul Kareem, one of the bus drivers on the route.
If the demand spirals, Hashimi has promised to add double-decker buses on the route, with increased frequency during peak hours. Revealing future plans, he said that RTA might also reinstate another cancelled popular route 91A between Gold Souq and Jebel Ali.
Apart from 91, other new bus routes include 13D that runs between Gold Souq Bus Station and Al Qusais Bus Station; 64A – between Gold Souq Bus Station and Ras Al Khor via: Airport Road; X28 – connecting LuLu Village to Media City via Muraqqabat.
Besides the four new routes, four special services have also been added to the network, which includes two special shuttle routes within the Al Quoz Area – 318 and 323 – starting from the Al Quoz bus station and serving Al Quoz Ind areas three and four respectively.
Two Friday-only express services – X10 and X94 – have been started to shuttle from Gold Souq to Al Quoz and Jebel Ali. Complementing these would be the nine modified services that would put the total number of urban routes to 88. RTA also operates 15 intercity routes.
Around 2,000 buses cater to these routes, supported by seven main stations in Dubai.