Realising Dubai’s Metro Dreams

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    DUBAI – Even before the Dubai Metro is launched, it has earned its most ardent passenger — Abdulla Ali Abdul Razak Al Madani, the CEO of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) Corporate Support Services (CSS) Sector. 

     

    Dubai metro
    Dubai metro

    The man, whose department provides vital support to the ambitious Dubai Metro — slated to roll out on September 9 this year, has vowed to use the Metro daily to get to work.

     

    And, that’s not all, for he says the decision shall be abiding on his family too, especially his children, even though they are too young to travel all by themselves. No wonder they too are all excited about the project.

    Al Madani, a graduate in Management Information Systems from Denver, Colorado (1991 batch) joined the Dubai Municipality and was later tasked with running its IT department. After a decade-long stint there, he moved to RTA three years ago to set up its IT department. Six months later, he was appointed the head of CSS, the civic body’s veritable backbone.

    Al Madani was ranked amongst the Top Ten IT managers of 2005 by Arabian Computer News, a leading technology and business magazine in the Middle East.

    “This is a huge milestone for 2009. But, our challenges are far too many… the primary one being making the commuters’ first Metro experience also their best.”

    He is confident that people’s mindset towards the use of Metro will change once they experience the facility. “The countdown has begun. But, we are confident that the project will take off smoothly because every minute detail is being looked into carefully,” he says while getting ready to tell Khaleej Times about their progress towards the 2020 plan, which was presented to the Dubai Ruler three years ago.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    Q: What is the role of the Corporate Support Services (CSS) department?

    A. The CSS is that part of RTA which provides services and support and also frames policies. Even though each agency, like the rail agency, public transport agency, does its core business with its own support teams, they are governed by the policies, rules and regulations framed by the CSS. The CSS also works out the structure of these agencies. This helps improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

    We handle nine departments with  nine directors at their head and 40 managers, including areas of human resources, finance, IT, procurement, customer service, marketing and communications, administration services, building and facilities. And finally, we also have the Unified Smart Card (UAFC- Unified automated fare collection) for which a new department has been set up.

    What is the Unified Smart Card and when is RTA planning to launch these cards?

    The Unified card is a Smart card similar to the Oyster Card in London, which offers a cost-effective way of making a journey using multiple transport modes. The Unified Smart card system envisages provision of a single card for all transport modes, including public buses, marine transport modes (abras and water buses), Dubai Metro and MParking. The scheme is based on the concept of an electronic purse, from which payment for services used will be deducted.

    What types of Unified Cards will be available? 

    Two types of such cards will be issued: regular cards for tourists and visitors, and the Personalised card, for Dubai residents which will carry the user’s name and picture. The cards include options like single ride card, 10 rides card, daily cards, weekly cards, monthly cards and prepaid cards.

    As was recently announced, about a third of the jobs on the Dubai Metro will be reserved for Emiratis… Please comment.

    The concession agreement for the Operations and maintenance of the Red and Green Lines concluded between RTA and SERCO (the company that is to handle Metro operations) includes an explicit Emiratisation condition. SERCO is required to attract, recruit, retain and develop UAE nationals and provide them with careers rather than jobs.

    Over 2,000 staff will be required for the opening of the Red Line in the third quarter of 2009 and the organisation will continue to grow up to the strength of 2,800 by the launch of the Green Line in the first quarter of 2010. The Emiratisation plan aims at recruitment of up to 30-50 per cent of the total supervisory or managerial positions by the time of opening of the Green Line.

    Is the recruitment/training of Dubai Metro staff underway?

    Yes, recruitment has begun and many positions have been filled. But, I must admit there is a need for Emiratis in the technical field. My eight-year-old son has already decided he wants to work for the Dubai Metro when he grows up.

    Does RTA encourage people with special needs to come on board?

    Certainly. For people with special needs, RTA will provide them with job that suits their abilities. Last year, we recruited nine such staff in diffe-rent positions.

    Has the global meltdown affected RTA’s Corporate Services programme and RTA projects, especially the Dubai Metro?

    I cannot say that it hasn’t affected us. But, all of RTA’s Corporate services programme are running on time. Globally, governments are spending on infrastructures in such hard times so that all strategic projects are not affected since they are in the interest of a city’s growth. We may have re-programmed a few but the strategic ones have not been touched… The Dubai Metro is very much on track. Also, there have been no layoffs at RTA. On the contrary, we are recruiting.

    Why is RTA outsourcing jobs and services?

    We outsource certain tasks and jobs to remain focused on our core business. And, if someone can do the non-core business better and at a lower cost… that’s the perfect reason to outsource. RTA has outsourced Metro operations to SERCO as the Metro is a new project for the region in terms of driverless trains. SERCO was chosen because of their experience in operating the metro in UK. We are proud to have built the Metro with a large number of employees being UAE nationals, but the day to day operations have to be run by an experienced team of professionals.

    Are any other services in the pipeline?

    The RTA will soon launch value-added e-services like end-to-end online driver licensing renewal, vehicle registration renewal, journey planner, UAFC and Mparking – which will allow residents to pay for parking their vehicles through mobile phones.

    What challenges do you face as the CEO of CSS?

    Well, the task is not an easy one. In the field of providing services, it takes a lot to make people happy, generally speaking. If you produce new service and improve existing services, the expectations go up. But, the beauty lies in innovating consistently. It’s challenging but it also brings me job satisfaction.

    What do you keep in mind when at work?

    The essence is in good planning… also, in putting in place the right operations selecting the right tools and technologies. At RTA, this is particularly important. Lot of work goes into new projects which people are unaware of. And, people do not accept change easily. At RTA, we look at all the details especially from the customers’ point of view.

    meraj@khaleejtimes.com