Only third of metro stations open on launch

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    By Shakir Husain      http://business2.maktoob.com

    Less than a third of stations will be ready when Dubai’s long-awaited metro launches in September, dealing a blow to the emirate’s flagship mass public transport project, sources have told Maktoob Business.

    Sources close to the project said the 52 km Red Line, which was originally meant to launch with all 29 stations operational, will only have nine stations working when the metro opens to the public on Sept. 9.

    Ten more stations will come online in October, with the remaining stations completed by December, sources said.

    “Nine will be ready in September, another 10 a month after that and then the last 10 in November,” one source said.

    With less than a third of stations open upon launch, large parts of Dubai will be inaccessible via the metro for at least the first month of operation.

    Dubai has high hopes the $4.2 billion metro will alleviate some of the traffic problems that have blighted the city over the past few years.

    Sources said priority has been given to stations at Rashidiya, Deira City Centre, Al-Riqqa, Union Square, Burjuman, Al-Jafiliya, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Mall of the Emirates and Jumeirah Islands.

    Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), the government agency behind the metro, did not respond to questions sent by Maktoob Business.

    STAGGERED OPENING

    RTA Chairman Matter al-Tayer said earlier this year the agency will not open stations where surrounding developments had not been completed, without being more specific.

    “We’ll announce which stations will be open before 9/9/9,” he said in June. “There is no point opening a station where buildings around it aren’t finished and add operating cost. It’s better to wait three or four months and then open it.”

    Rail industry expert Chris Jackson, editor of Railway Gazette International, said it is not unusual for metro lines to open in stages.

    “I gather that the completion of some stations has been re-phased due to the slower pace of development surrounding them, which seems a sensible move,” Jackson told Maktoob Business.

    “Whether that means that part of the line won’t open or if the trains will just run through the unfinished stations is not clear.”

    He also said it is possible to open stations before they are fully completed.

    “It is quite possible to open a station once the essential services, particularly air-conditioning, electrical controls, and the ticketing system are operational and finish the other elements later,” Jackson said.

    But he emphasised extensive testing needed to take place three months before the actual start of services.

    “Ideally the operator needs to be in position to start running a full ‘ghost’ service without passengers around three months before the launch of regular services,” he said.

    The opening of the Red Line will be followed by a 22 km Green Line in March 2010. The Green Line will have 18 stations and run from Al-Qusais to Jadaf.

    There are also plans for Blue and Purple lines, although the RTA has said the Purple line is under review due to the economic downturn.