Our City, Our Metro

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    By Anil Bhoyrul   www.arabianbusiness.com

    As Dubai launches go, it was low key. No Hollywood celebrities. No rock concert. Even the fireworks went unnoticed.

    But as one of the Dubai government officials told me last night: “We don’t need to hype this. You just need to get on the train.”

    He was right. In fact, that’s pretty much all His Highness Sheikh Mohammed did. After strolling through Mall of the Emirates and watching a video, he bought the first ever Dubai Metro ticket and then boarded the first ever passenger train, bang on time at 9.9.9.9.9.

    Simple, but spectacular. Make no mistake, last night is proof that Dubai is back on the big stage. Have you been on the Metro? You really should go. Okay, we can argue forever about the number of stations not ready, car parking facilities, train timings and long term revenue forecasts.

    Forget all that. Just get on the train now. Most of you reading this will have used some form of a metro elsewhere in the world. New York, Paris, London, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur…they all claim to have world class systems.

    Not anymore. Dubai has beaten them hands down. For design, comfort, and luxury – you name the criteria, Dubai has outdone everyone.

    And in record time. Just 49 months. Six years ago when I came to Dubai, there wasn’t a single Metro hole in the ground. Nobody had even heard the words “Dubai Metro.” Now it is reality.

    The RTA suggests that by 2020, 1.8 million people a day will use the Metro. Judging by this morning, I believe those figures are correct, because overnight, in an instance, the entire travelling culture of the emirate has been transformed.

    I saw suits with brief cases and Blackberrys waiting patiently to board their train on the way to work. Tourists heading to hotels, even mothers taking their children to school.

    It is very early days – actually it’s just four hours since the Metro was open to paying passengers. Our travelling habits have been changed forever. Forget the glitches, of which there will be many in the coming days, because the job has been done. Was it worth $7.2 billion? Yes.

    Last night was also the best possible message to the rest of the world, particularly the foreign media that has been busy writing Dubai’s history. Now it must write the future again, as the Metro puts Dubai high in the league of mega-cities. There was no summer panic, no mass exodus, no second crash.

    Last year on September 15, the world’s economies changed forever. That was the day a 158 year old bank called Lehman Brothers became the largest bankruptcy in US history. Yesterday, nearly exactly one year later, will in time be seen as the turning point for Dubai.

    There is an unmistakable buzz in the emirate, hope is rising and confidence is back. Dubai is back.

    A few years ago, HH Sheikh Mohammed was asked by CBS news why he was pushing to complete his vision for the future so fast. “Because I want it now,” he replied.

    Yesterday he got it.