Dubai’s New Metro May Herald Change in Segregated City

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    By Stephen Jones Epoch Times Staff      www.theepochtimes.com

    DUBAI—Gazing out of the window of a carriage on Dubai’s new metro line, Humaid Al Marri has high hopes for his native city.

    Dubai, known for its heavy traffic, compounded by constant detours from construction projects, has just opened its first metro. (Cindy Drukier/The Epoch Times)
    Dubai, known for its heavy traffic, compounded by constant detours from construction projects, has just opened its first metro. (Cindy Drukier/The Epoch Times)

    The Emirati sales manager booked tickets for the launch of the first metro line in the Gulf two weeks before its launch date of 9/9/09.

    “Dubai has attracted a lot of criticism because of the divisions between classes and cultures, but all this will change with the metro,” he said.

    “Regardless of whether you are a CEO or a student, as long as you share the same carriage on the metro you make the same journey home.”

    Dubai is famed for gleaming skyscrapers, flashy sports cars and tax-free lifestyles.

    Underneath the veneer, there is an underclass of blue collar workers from the Indian subcontinent who struggle to survive on salaries of up to Dh800 ($217) a month.

    Although the metro has a gold class compartment, the average ticket costs of just Dh6.50 (US$1.7) for a 32 mile journey is well within the reach of even the lowest paid worker in the emirate.

    “On a metro train, no one is better than anyone else,” said Al Marri.

    Dubai was made famous by the hubris that fueled the building of the world’s tallest tower and the largest man-made island, but the completion of the metro comes as the emirate is rocked by its worst-ever economic downturn.

    Ten out of 29 stations on Dubai Metro’s Red Line opened on Wednesday evening after a project that has so far been four years in the works.

    Mattar Al Tayer, executive director of the agency behind the metro, the Roads and Transport Authority, said that the remainder of the stations will be open sometime in 2010.

    Al Tayer has reason to express caution over setting a date for rolling out the remaining 19 stations.

    Over the last two months, local media reported that that the Authority had been granted permission by Labor officials to deny their workers a midday break from the 122 degree desert sun – which they are entitled to by law during the summer months of July and August.

    RTA officials declined to comment on the reports.On Friday, the first day of the weekend in the Gulf emirate, stations were packed with curious passengers eager to try out the metro.

    Dubai Metro was introduced as part of an effort to reduce the burden on the roads of the emirate, which remain notoriously congested. It is anticipated that the metro network could carry 3,500 passengers an hour.

    Many residents, such as Australian retiree Paula Kaabar, said that since she doesn’t drive, the cost of the city’s taxis had effectively confined her within her own home.

    “This new metro system will change everything for me,” she said. “Now I can explore parts of this city that I haven’t seen in the four years that I have been living here.”

    The metro, which is believed to have cost Dh28 billion ($7.60 billion), is expected to become the world’s longest driverless rail system.

    Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, inaugurated the metro on Wednesday night amid fireworks and a live telecast across the Gulf.

    “This is an achievement for all Arabs,” he said.