By Ramesh Mathew www.gulf-times.com
Speakers at the UTIP Congress, organised by Mowasalat, have stressed the need for Metro rail and similar systems in cities of the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) facing traffic congestion. The meet was held at Grand Hyatt Hotel yesterday.
Al-Hassan felt once the Dubai Metro became completely operational in the first quarter of 2010, more people would switch over. He said the metro carried more than 1mn passengers in the first 14 days and now the average daily turn out is close to 100,000 passengers a day. As of now, it covers less than half of its planned 52km length.
The session, chaired by UTIP president Alain Flausch had as speakers representatives of Dubai Road Transport Authority (RTA), Mushad Urban Rail Corp (Iran), Algiers Metro Operating Company and Hong Kong’s MTR.
Reiterating that there is no better way than building and strengthening Metro rail to overcome traffic congestion and other related issues, director of planning and design department for Dubai RTA’s Rail Agency, Abdul Redha al-Hassan said the first phase of Metro operations in Dubai had proved that people had confidence in the abilities of an efficient Metro.
Countries planning to execute projects to reduce traffic congestion should choose systems that suit their requirements, he said.
The RTA official highlighted the need for better feeder services to support the Metro system. “If the passenger needs to walk a considerable distance to avail of the services of a Metro, it would be of little use,” he said.
In Dubai, the maximum distance one needs to travel to a Metro Station from the nearest road-head is less than 250m. In most cases, the distance is les, he said.
The Dubai official said air-conditioned and covered bus shelters were built in the UAE to attract people to public transport. The results were encouraging as studies have proved that a large number of travellers, who were earlier reliant on cars have switched to either Metro or buses.
Al-Hassan also claimed that the fares on Dubai Metro could be cheaper than most other Metros across the world barring those in New Delhi and Cairo. “To make Metro accessible to one and all, the planners need to take extra care while fixing tariffs,” he said.
Speaking later, senior Mashad Urban Rail Corp official Abulfazi Mirzaee said more than 93% of the first phase of the Metro under construction in the second largest Iranian city is complete and would be ready for use in a few years. He said the city of 2.6mn faces numerous traffic problems.
The city, spread over 272 square kilometres, has more than 9,000 taxis and 2,700 public and mini buses.
General manager of Algiers Metro Operating Company (RATP El Djazair) Francois Dernoncourt said one should work out the possible benefits, feasibility and viability of a system of transportation before reaching a decision on its introduction. He said work on the Metro that began in the Algerian capital more than two decades ago has not been completed until now.
“Out of the $40bn earmarked for public transport in Algeria, 50% is allotted to the building of the Metro rail in Algiers,” said Dernoncourt.
While complimenting the efforts of Dubai and Doha in introducing new transport solutions to reduce traffic snarls, chief of operations of Hong Kong’s MTR Corp Morris Chung said his home city had every reason to be proud of the efficiency of its Metro and other public transport solutions. Started in 1979, Hong Kong’s Metro carries more than 1.25bn passengers a year. Functioning more than 19 hours a day, it carries more than 3.4mn passengers daily.
He said suitable transport solutions should provide value addition services to make it economically viable. “We have done this in Hong Kong by developing real estate properties at all possible locations,” said Chung.