By Annabel Kantaria www.telegraph.co.uk
Pity the British expat, used to the cut and thrust of a London commute, who runs to catch a Dubai metro train. His sweaty relief at panting his way into a crowded carriage will turn to irritation as he realises how much his run’s just cost him.
Yes, it’s just been announced that running to catch the Dubai Metro is forbidden and will lead to a “stiff fine.” If you disagree with your fine – perhaps it was more of a trot than a run – closed-circuit television footage from the stations is kept for 28 days and will be examined for proof.
The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) introduced the fine because “running poses a danger to other users”, and argues that it is, at any rate, “unnecessary because trains come every six minutes during peak hours and every eight minutes during off-peak hours”. The strict schedule is maintained because the driverless trains stop at each station for just 30 seconds.
The RTA’s confidence in the Metro’s punctuality is well founded. Despite the frustration of initial delays and snags, the brand-new metro has largely been hitting all the right notes. Since its opening in September 2009, it has had a 99 per cent punctuality rate; now carries over 100,000 people per day; has just opened a raft of new stations and has even starred in a Bollywood movie with Salman Khan.
To ride on the metro is a pleasure: it’s clean, bright, safe, cheap, air-conditioned and much nicer since they turned off the mind-numbing “muzak” that used to be piped ad infinitum into the carriages. Dubai is justifiably proud its gleaming new mass transit system and, understandably, quite precious about keeping it that way. There are rules to protect it, and a sliding scale of fines that ranges from Dhs 100 (£18.50) to Dhs 500 (£92.50) for transgressions such as putting your feet on the seats, sleeping in the stations, chewing gum, eating or drinking onboard the trains, spitting, littering or, in any way, defacing or damaging the Metro.
Given a choice between a filthy, shambolic railway system that never quite gets it right and a clean and punctual service, for which I’m not allowed to run, I know which I’d prefer. Running in heels on a polished marble floor’s a bit dicey, anyway.