Dubai Metro: Track to the future


    With Dubai’s mass light rail transit system going live in September, typical commuter travelling and waiting times will be slashed from hours to mere minutes, a top official overseeing the Dubai Metro said.

    Dubai Metro
    Dubai Metro

    Mark McCole, Director of Operations at Serco, the company hired by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to run the Metro, pledged that riders won’t be forced to “wait more than three minutes and 45 seconds” for the next train to arrive at any of the new Red Line’s 29 stations. And that’s during peak hours.

    “Anyone who is stuck in traffic will soon know that the Metro will be definitely quicker,” said McCole.

    Clockwork precisionPatronage models based on the design of the Dh15.5 billion driverless Metro also suggest that the maximum waiting time for any train at a station during off-peak times will be seven minutes and 30 seconds, he added.


    The secret to one of the most efficient Metro systems in the world lies in the RTA’s careful selection of the latest and most sophisticated train, network and computer technology which enables a “pinched loop” to run with clockwork precision.

    Trains built by Japanese firm Kinki Sharyo are capable of carrying 11,010 passengers per hour in each direction during peak hours, and up to 5,505 passengers during off-peak times, McCole said. Each five-car train will carry a maximum of 640 passengers at any given time.

    “The maximum speed of the trains will be 90km/h and it will get up to that,” McCole said, “but the average speed will be around 45km/h to 50km/h.”

    The key to the system is deploying 38 trains during rush hour in constant motion along the Red Line, with enough headway between each train to ensure safety. During off-peak times, the number of trains will be reduced to 18 to meet lesser demand, McCole said.

    “A single (one-way) trip between Al Rashidiya and Jebel Ali will take 69 minutes,” McCole said.

    “Turn-around time at terminal stations will take approximately 90 seconds. Hence a round trip will be [138] minutes plus 1.5 minutes, which equals 139.5 minutes in total.”

    By the time the Red Line opens on September 9, McCole said roughly 2,500 Serco employees will be trained and prepared to ensure smooth operations. The full Serco staff complement will gradually climb to 3,200 by the time the Green Line opens in March next year.

    Superb service

    Ensuring that the Metro is properly staffed is another critical element to complement the world’s top train technology.

    “Reliability, cleanliness and customer service is absolutely key,” McCole said. “When people walk into a station, it should be a five-star experience. Superb world-class customer service is what we’re aiming to be.”

    One of the biggest challenges to ensuring smooth operation is educating the public on how best it should access a user-friendly service.

    “A large section of the population here has never used a Metro before. It’s a first for this part of the world,” he said. “We’re very cognisant of it being a railway. Staff needs to help and intervene when necessary.”

    Cruise controlThe Metro system will be operated by expert staff huddled in the Operations Control Centre at the Rashidiya Depot of the Metro, McCole said.


    All automated trains, viaducts and stations will be monitored an d operated through an Alcatel system and staffed by “very experienced people from different [Metro] systems across the world” through 13 workstations in the control room, McCole said. Staff will monitor and manually adjust the Metro network with the help of closed-circuit televisions, alarms and a communications network that link workers.

    Testing the metro

    Serco will begin full testing of the Dubai Metro as early as July. “To ensure safety and excellence in the overall operation, there will be a Services and Operations Demonstration Period that starts on July 26. This will include a number of trial tests that will cover all aspects of its operations,” said a company spokesperson. Once issues are addressed, the Metro will be tested again leading to the September 9 opening date.

    Bracing for Sharjah riders

    Dubai Metro officials are bracing for what they believe will be a daily avalanche of road-weary commuters from Sharjah who have had enough of the three-hour nightly drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

    When the Red Line opens, Mark McCole, Director of Operations at Serco, said they expects motorists from Sharjah to go to Rashidiya and ride the Metro into Dubai.

    Sharjah “will be a key catchment area”, said McCole, noting that the Rashidiya terminal will be an attractive option for Sharjah drivers who can leave their vehicles at the nearby 3,000 multi-storey car park. Other Sharjah residents are expected to arrive at Rashidiya through bus feeder systems that will make regular stops at the station. The wave of Sharjah commuters will likely grow when the Green Line opens next year. The line’s Al Qusais station is adjacent to a car park that can take in 6,000 vehicles.

    By Derek Baldwin, Senior Reporter, Published: April 16, 2009, 08:59