By Shafaat Ahmed www.khaleejtimes.com
Gone are the days of frenetic pace and mad rush. In Dubai, it’s all measured and assured now. Taking one step at a time and ensuring that it’s a step in the right direction.
The RTA is crossing the penultimate hurdle of the first phase of its ambitious metro project.
Among the descending gloom of economic recession over the last two years, one thing has remained steady – in its speed as well as its development – the Metro. In fact, it has been a story of milestones — stations, passengers, tickets, timing — every movement of the blue streak has been truly memorable. And now is the time of another vital step.
Just five months after adding 10 new stations to the previously operating number of 11, the RTA is gearing up to open five strategically located stops this Friday.
Supported by 28 new feeder buses on 6 new routes, the five stations — Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT), Nakheel, Sharaf DG, First Gulf Bank and Business Bay — are seen as additional gateways to their surrounding neighbourhoods already catered by a station nearby.
With increased frequency as well as changes in timings to mark the launch of additional stations the metro is ready to handle extra pressure. The operational time for weekdays would remain same except for Thursday when the trains will operate till midnight.
An hour is also added on Fridays when the trains will begin operations at 1pm and run until midnight.
Varying as per the demand, 22 trains would be deployed during peak time and 16 during regular hours. Service frequency has been set at one train every six and eight minutes during peak and off-peak hours, respectively.
Revealing the details of the stations, Director of Operations at the Rail Agency Ramadan Abdullah said that stations are ready to receiver passengers and have been equipped with every possible thing that could make people’s journey safe and convenient.
“Convenience of commuters is our top priority. That is why we took ample time in making sure each and every station is ready to handle the passengers. The stations on average have the capacity to handle between 400 to 600 passengers at any given moment,” said Abdullah.
He also said that the new stations will have all features and facilities that are part of currently operating stations like special provision for people with special needs, safety features for women and children etc.
Elaborating once again on the criteria of choosing the stations to open, he said, “Stations are chosen based on the development and population around them as well as the availability of right kind of infrastructure to support the Metro.”
With a ridership of over 30 million passengers in just a year, the Metro currently transports around 130,000 commuters daily, which is considered phenomenal given the lack of public transport culture in the city.
The daily passenger tally is estimated to jump overnight to 150,000 from Friday with the opening of the five stations and given the kind of numbers the Metro has already attracted in its short journey, more seems possible. The move will now leave only three stations unopened — Jebel Ali, Jebel Ali Industrial and Energy which are also keenly awaited by commuters. However, RTA officials claim the level of development around these stations is still not enough for them to be opened for public.
Each of the new station has the potential to add several thousand passengers to the Metro’s growing tally, connecting people to several landmarks in its vicinity. Khaleej Times takes a closer look at each station and its potentialities.
Jumeirah Lake Towers
The name suggests which segment of the society the station is eyeing. A kilometre from either side of Nakheel Harbour & Towers (NHT) and Dubai Marina (DM), JLT station targets the upwardly mobile residents of a sleek cluster of real estate that goes by the same name.
Surrounded by smart-looking highrises from every side, the station is the third gateway for a huge chunk of the city’s top executives and business people. Though there is no dedicated feeder bus route from this station, the already existing ones catering to NHT and DM have a stop.
The biggest of the five stations set to open, Nakheel is one of nearly half a dozen stations that dot in close proximity to each other on a part of Shaikh Zayed Road that is considered the Manhattan of Dubai. With a capacity to handle around 8,900 passengers, the station is touted to become the most popular among the new stations, catering to a wide-ranging customer base. From the students of some of Dubai’s top educational institutions to tourists from the emirate’s most lavish hotels as well as well-heeled residents of the neighbourhoods, all would avail the station’s services. Two bus routes F32 and F39 will serve the station and are likely to reduce the load of Dubai Internet City Station.
With just a kilometre away from the Metro’s most popular station — Mall of the Emirates (MoE), Sharaf DG will help ease the mall’s load by catering to some of the residents of Al Barsha as well as the schools operating from the area. Bus routes heading from the MoE will also serve the station’s passengers as additional buses have not yet been assigned to the station.
First Gulf Bank
Flanked by the sparkling Dubai Gold and Diamond Park and an expansive office of its namesake, the First Gulf Bank station is only the second station to be opened between Dubai Mall and the MoE. Automobiles showrooms, workshops, and big furniture brands are some of the businesses that line the street facing the station. On the other side is the sea of cozy villas and mansions inhabited by the city’s elite. The station is well connected with two feeder bus routes serving Al Quoz Industrial Areas 3 and 4 as well as Umm Suqeim 2 and 3.
It could be called a twin of the Dubai Mall station, but Business Bay (BB) stands on its own in several aspects. With the concrete jungle on one side not yet ready for habitation, the station primarily targets the upper middleclass folks residing the other side of Shaikh Zayed Road opposite the station. The fact that it runs two of its own bus routes despite being so close to the Dubai Mall station is a testimony to its strategic status.
Feeder buses for new stations
Covering seven massive residential as well as commercial areas, 28 feeder buses will ply on six different routes connecting with the new Metro stations.
While three routes — F25A, F32A and F39A — have been cancelled, the areas these routes covered have been incorporated in the new ones.
Route F18 will connect the Business Bay station from the seaside to Jumeirah 2 and 3, whereas F20 will serve Safa 1.
First Gulf Bank (FGB) will have one route each towards the land side as well as the seaside. F25 will be plying towards the land side covering Al Quoz Areas 3 and 4. Areas previously covered by F25A will now be covered by F25. On the seaside, F28 will connect FGB with Umm Suqeim 2 and 3.
Serving Dubai Media City, Knowledge Village, Dubai Internet City (DIC) jointly from Nakheel as well as DIC station would be routes F32 and F39, with particular beneficiaries being the students of American University in Dubai.