By Eugene Harnan www.thenational.ae
DUBAI // All 29 stops on Dubai Metro’s Red Line will be open for business by the end of February, senior transport officials said yesterday.
The line launched with 10 stations in September, and basic construction of the remaining 19 stations is complete, officials said. Workers are racing to finish electrical and mechanical work, road improvements and landscaping.
“We still don’t know if we will open them all at once or over a period, but they will be open by the end of February,” said Peyman Younes Parham, the rail line’s director of marketing and communications.
Mattar al Tayer, the chairman of the board and executive director of the Roads and Transport Authority, said work at most of the unopened stations was more than 80 per cent finished, and the stations would soon undergo technical trial runs.
Other finishing touches will be added, including bus stops and taxi ranks, he said.
Confirmation that the 57km Red Line would soon be running at full capacity was welcomed by Dubai residents whose plans to make use of the Metro were hampered in September when their nearest stations remained closed.
Many would-be users in areas like Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lakes Towers live within walking distance of an incomplete station and are still commuting by car.
Eamonn Ferns, 35, from the US, said he was let down when his nearest station at Jumeirah Lakes Towers was not one of the 10 stations that opened on September 9.
“I was looking forward to it. I was used to the subway in New York, which I used to get to work for five years when I lived there,” he said.
Mr Ferns, a financial adviser, said he would use the Metro at weekends to go to malls but wanted to see how long it would take him to get to his office.
“It already takes about 25 minutes to get from Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station to where my office is at Financial Centre station, so depending on how long it would take to get there I would consider leaving the car behind,” he said.
Mike Mitchell, 31, also from the US, said he was looking forward to being able to read the newspaper on his way to work while listening to his Mp3 player.
“No more traffic or circling the office looking for parking,” the land surveyor said. “I moved closer to a station in Dubai Marina so I could use it, and my office is next to the Burj Dubai station.”
Sarah Westcott, 28, an architect living less than a half-kilometre from the Jumeirah Lakes Towers station, said: “It’s annoying having to drive past an unopened station right on my doorstep every day.
“I work along Sheikh Zayed Road, so the Metro will be ideal for me to commute on. If it does open in February, that’s great news for me. I’ll be able to leave the car at home.”
However, proximity to a station is not enough to persuade everyone to swap their cars for the Metro.
Alison Simmons, 43, an estate agent from the UK, said: “It will not take me where I want to go, and I prefer driving. I just bought a new car and I work from home.
“I spend most of my time meeting clients in different parts of the city, and I don’t think a client would think it would be professional to arrive on the Metro or a bus.”
Almost three months after the Metro launched, officials said the line was far from operating at its full capacity.
“It was a soft launch and we are still testing it,” Mr Parham said. “There will be more trains and a higher frequency.
“We are ready with the staff who are fully trained and the stations are nearly ready, but configuring the software is the challenge.”
Abdul al Hassan, the director of planning and development at the RTA’s rail agency, was confident of completing the remaining work by the end of February.
His department was no stranger to meeting tight deadlines, he said, having built the Metro system within three years. “To open the line like this, you need six months of non-commercial operation,” he said. “In our situation, we squeezed the six months into two weeks.”
The Red Line starts in Jebel Ali and runs past some of Dubai’s most notable landmarks, including the Burj Dubai, before finishing at Al Rashidiya.
Once the Green Line opens by next summer, Dubai Metro will be the world’s longest driverless metro a fully automated system in which trains are controlled by a computer program.
Despite only about a third of the Red Line’s stations being open, more than three million passengers have so far made use of the Metro, according to the RTA.
Mohammed al Hashimi, the director of planning and business development at the RTA’s Public Transport Agency, said the introduction of a network of more than 50 “feeder” bus services carrying passengers to and from their nearest Metro stations had attracted new customers. He said more feeder routes would be introduced soon, particularly to new communities in Al Barsha and Mirdiff and similar areas.
“We see people on these buses and they must be new passengers,” Mr al Hashimi said.
“We have a new service from Financial Centre Station to Dubai Mall which has new clientele.
“We think we are getting a lot more white-collar passengers than before, but we are still waiting for the statistical data to get back to us.”
Meanwhile, a late night bus service running the length of the Red Line has begun providing transport for people who have missed the last Metro train. The N4 service runs every 30 minutes from 11pm until 2am.
“This will allow people to travel along the Metro line if they want to return to where they got it but the line was closed and when they might be overcrowded,” Mr al Hashimi said.
Mr al Tayer, the RTA’s executive director, recently visited some of the yet-to-be opened stations and also visited the new Metro control room that is still under construction.
He said the electromechanical work to be completed include the commissioning and testing of escalators, lighting and the communications systems.
The control room is expected to be inaugurated in February and will control both the Red Line and the Green Line that is expected to open in July.
The Red Line is currently operated from a temporary control room that will be put of out of service once the new one comes on stream.
The control room will monitor the movement, communication and power consumption of every train.
The Metro stations will be also watched from there.
In the event of an accident, the control room will be the central command for all emergency services, and will also control ventilation and air-conditioning systems and the safety of doors, brakes and engines.