By Sharmila Dhal, Senior Reporter www.gulfnews.com
DUBAI: With three near-derailments, a rail track fire, lingering door synching snags and other teething problems that followed its 09-09-09 launch, the Dubai Metro faces an acid test as 10 more stations open in the next few weeks.
Seven of these stations which cover densely-populated residential areas and key commercial clusters will open on April 30. Three will open on May 15, bringing the number of operational stations on the Red Line to 21 out of the 29 planned.
The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) estimates commuter traffic would increase from 13.68 million to over 35 million by the year-end.
However, with more stations coming up, there are concerns over the efficacy of the system. Not without reason.
According to sources there have been three near-derailment incidents since the launch. Luckily, accidents were averted with attendants slamming on the brakes manually each time.
More recently, on April 14 to be precise, several commuters got stuck for 25 minutes after a train made an unscheduled halt.
And just last week, a test run of 20 trains was aborted and operations scaled back to 12 trains, when a track intersection got damaged during a manual parking operation.
Problems related to synchronisation between platform service doors and train doors persist. There aren’t many attendants to fix them as their numbers have dwindled as 20 per cent of them have quit, sources said, adding that existing strength is not enough for trial runs, let alone the full operations.
“There are still many glitches as seen in test runs for the additional eight trains alongside the opening of new stations,” sources said.
A comment was not immediately available from the RTA.
Oblivious to these operational issues, residents are eagerly waiting for the new stations to open.
Karama residents Nelson Braganza and Tushar Naik who work in Jebel Ali plan to give their cars a break later this month. “I will not need to drive to work regularly once the stations open at Karama and Ibn Battuta Mall,” said 55-year-old Braganza, while Naik said he is looking forward to Salik-free Metro rides and “freedom from driving through maddening traffic”.
Till now, the station closest to Jebel Ali was Nakheel Harbour.
Gloreen Gomes and Nial D., both of whom live a stone’s throw away from the new Karama station, plan to use the Metro for their weekend outings. “It will be easy to travel to Ibn Battuta, Deira City Centre and Dubai Mall,” said Gomes.
Karama is one of the busiest areas in Dubai and the new station holds the promise of easy commuting for the residents here.
Similarly, residents in areas such as Jumeirah Lake Towers and Marina in “New Dubai” are expected to benefit from the Metro as it would afford them easier access to places.
The security guard at the Dubai Marina station, where cleaning and polishing of tiles is currently under way, said, “Around 40-50 people come to the station every day to enquire when it will open.”
Charles Barwick, a resident of Marina Residence, which is adjacent to the next station (Jumeirah Lake Towers), said, “The sooner the stations open, the better.”
A property investor, Barwick said he was banking on the early opening of the stations for another reason. “There’s no question there will be premium on properties close to the stations. It is brutally hot for four-five months of the year and people will want to live as close as possible to the stations,” he said.
Alberto M., a Filipino in Bur Dubai, is in fact looking to move near the new Karama station shortly. “I work at the Mall of the Emirates and Karama will be ideal for me. Right now, it is inconvenient to travel by bus or taxi to the Khalid Bin Waleed station, but from Karama, I can just hop, skip and reach work.”
Other new stations like Airport Terminal 1 are also being seen as a big plus.
“It will provide an alternative mode of transport to and from the airport for people who travel light. It’s also a fantastic option for airport and airline employees who commute to and from the Dubai International Airport every day for work,” said Lorne Riley, Head of Corporate Communications, Dubai Airports.
Terminal 1 handled 1.06 million out of the total 3.64 million passengers across all terminals in February 2010. The total number of passengers using the terminals is expected to go up to 46 million passengers by the year-end.
Riley, however, did not comment on luggage restrictions on the Metro or any plan to have check-in facilities for passengers taking the train.
A customer service executive at the RTA clarified that passengers are allowed to carry luggage on the Metro within permissible limits (81cm width and 58cm height) along with a handbag.
No extra charges would be levied for the luggage, she said.
This should come as good news for commuters like Suniya Behl, another Karama resident, who said, “I will use the train to travel to the airport and would not have to depend on cabs now.”
- There have been at least three incidents of near-derailment of Metro trains at the depot
- Thousands of train commuters faced massive disruptions when a wiring on the rail tracks went up in smoke at around 6.45pm on Febraury 28, shutting down a busy segment of the Metro. The fire failed to send an alarm to the central control room. The fire was reported by a train attendant after seeing smoke inside the tunnel near the Union Square station
- Incidents of platform service door and train synching problems, in which train doors had to be closed manually
- Several incidents of “out train”, in which a train is driven manually by a train attendant as the train is unable to take command from the central control room
-With inputs from Ivan DeSouza