New fleet to arrive ahead of Metro launch

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    Eugene Harnan Last Updated: June 30. 2009

    DUBAI // A pack of buses will be delivered next week as transit officials gear up for the Dubai Metro’s launch on September 9.

    Hundreds of the vehicles will be on the roads by the end of the summer, officials say, ferrying passengers to and from the Metro’s stations. A total of 518 buses, costing Dh846 million (US$230m) will be operating by April 2010.

    “There will be 41 feeder routes [for the Red Line] with a frequency of five to 10 minutes,” said Mohammed al Hashimi of the Roads and Transport Authority. “It is part of the ‘fishbone’ concept; the Metro line will be the main bone and the other bones will be the feeder services.”

    The vehicles will loop through residential areas, stopping at each of the Red and Green Line’s 47 stations. Three routes are being tested, serving the Ibn Battuta Mall station. The 29 stations for the Red Line, which runs along Sheikh Zayed Road and into the heart of Bur Dubai, will use 300 of the new buses. The Green Line, expected to launch in March, will use 150 buses to serve its 18 stations. The remaining 68 will be added across the system.

    Announcements on the new buses will tell passengers where the next stop is and exactly where they are in the city. An automated collection system will deduct the fares from the passengers’ cards, which can also be used on the Metro, abras and water taxis.

    Low floors, wide entrances and seating areas were added to make it easier for people with special needs to get on and off. The buses will have engines that limit the amount of pollutants in the exhaust.

    Each new bus is 12 metres long and can carry 68 passengers, according to Swaidan al Naboodah, the vice chairman of Al Naboodah Commercial Group, the local dealers for Netherlands-based VDL Citea bus manufacturer.

    “They come with special tropical air conditioning to withstand the hot climate of Dubai and the region,” he added.

    A journey of less than 3km on the bus and Metro combined will cost Dh1.80 if the passenger uses a prepaid card. A trip on a bus within any one of five zones that the RTA has divided the city into will cost Dh2.30 on a card.

    The pre-paid cards will be available when the Metro opens; money loaded on to them is deducted every time passengers use public transit.

    Travelling through two zones on a bus or the Metro will cost Dh4.50 for a ticket and Dh4.10 on a prepaid card. Any journey crossing three or more zones will cost Dh5.80 using a prepaid card.

    The RTA hopes to increase the number of people using public transport from six per cent of the population to 30 per cent by 2020.

    “The high technological features of these buses will contribute to attracting larger number of commuters to use mass transport modes,” said Mattar al Tayer, chairman of the board and executive director of the RTA. It was unclear precisely how many buses would be in service by September, but officials said there would be at least 200.

    Part of the deal with Al Naboodah is an eight-year maintenance and service agreement worth an additional Dh1.05bn.

    eharnan@thenational.ae