By David Light and Ibrahim Haj Hamad www.khaleejtimes.com
DUBAI — How do you get the world’s biggest automatic train system to run on its first day of service to the public with such minimal commotion that it creates the impression that it has been around for years? For the answer to that question, go speak to the RTA.
At 6am on Thursday morning, the distinctive blue carriages of the Dubai Metro pulled out of Nakheel Harbour and Tower station and began the 40-km trip to Al Rashidiya. There was not a throng of people as could be expected at that time and the numbers only really picked up after the Mall of the Emirates stop.
Isa Fernandes had been waiting at the stop in order to be one of the first members of the public to ride on the Metro. “I am not taking the metro to work but really wanted to be one of the first people to feel what it was like. I will go to Rashidiya and come back again before my shift starts at eight,” she said.
Isa was not alone in her exploits. Taking the train from one end of the line to the other and back again seemed to be what many passengers were doing during the first few hours of service. Many took pictures and recorded their journey whilst others snapped themselves and their friends on board the gleaming new trains. Mr and Mrs. Li of Al Barsha documented their entire trip on a video camera from the Mall of the Emirates to Khalid Bin Al Waleed station.
As a testament to increased integration in Dubai’s multi-cultural society, people of all nationalities could be found testing the new system in the morning. As passengers, hailing from various places including India, Britain or the Emirates, sat next to one another, there was a palpable sense of shared pride and camaraderie in the air, striking up conversations at every opportunity.
Patricio Porras, a Chief Learning Officer, Axiom Telecom, said he had been on many metros in New York, Brussels and Turkey but none were as technologically advanced as the Dubai Metro. “Just by looking at the platform you feel like you are in a five-star hotel,” Porras said while at the Nakheel Harbour and Tower station.
It is one of three metro stations with a free parking lot facility and has three parking floors available to Dubai Metro passengers at the moment. Four more floors are expected to open at a later date, said a security guard at the parking lot.
The station has a state-of-the-art transport layout with free internet connection, said Eszter Szilvugyi, a tourist from Hungary. It took her 50 minutes to reach the Rashidiya Metro Station from Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station. “My friends and I got up early this morning just to be the first to ride the Metro,” said Szilvugyi. She said she would have preferred it if the Marina Station had opened as she could have taken the metro directly from her home.
Many Metro stations between the Nakheel Tower Station and Rashidiya have not yet opened. The RTA has said these will become operational by next year.
Sixteen-year-old Faisal Abdulrahman, dressed in high school uniform with a bag on his shoulders, said he hated the school bus and so thought of taking the Metro to school instead. “There was a problem with the ticket machine at Rigga station even though it’s the first day and they should have been prepared,” he said.
However, at stations and on trains, members of staff were on hand helping commuters. A train attendant said, “This morning we have had no problems. Since 6 am, everyone has been really excited. Everyone, passengers and staff, have got on with things as if it was completely normal.”
There were about eight to nine police officers on duty at each Metro station to assist the passengers and ensure security, said Khalid Hamad Al Saidi, Officer from the Dubai Police. He had already taken countless rides during the testing of the metro and is all for the new system. “It’s fast, good and helpful – I will definitely use it when I am off-duty.”