Capital to privatise public transport

Private operators will be invited to run the metro, public buses and water-taxis, said Al Otaiba Mohammed Hakeem

The private sector is for the first time to be given a major role in the development and management of new transport projects in the capital.

The move is part of Abu Dhabi's efforts to expand its privatisation programme.

Private operators will be invited to run the planned metro, public buses and water-taxis that will link the emirate's 200 islands, said Abdullah Rashid Al Otaiba, Chairman of the Department of Transport.

"No one company will be allowed to run more than one means of transport," he said as he reviewed his department's strategy for the next five years. "However several companies will be able to run one system jointly to ensure quality service."

"The department will invite the best global companies to help set up a transport sector that uses the most up-to-date technology and is one of the best in the world." Al Otaiba said the department was carrying out an integrated study of the best means of transport for Abu Dhabi and the emirate's transport needs until 2030. The study will be completed by the end of the year and work on the project will start in early 2009.

However, Al Otaiba declined to disclose the cost of the new Abu Dhabi-Dubai road or other projects.

"There are many major projects for roads linking Abu Dhabi with other emirates and neighbouring countries and these are being carefully studied," he said. "They include the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road."

Al Otaiba said the department's five-year strategy focused on the developing, expanding and maintaining the emirate's road network and infrastructure to ensure the highest safety standards through partnership between the public and private sectors.

The plan involves expanding the air transport sector through an open-skies policy and the establishment of ports built to international standards. Khalifa Port alone will accommodate 80 million tonnes.

Asked about reports that an airport would be built in Al Gharbia – formerly the Western Region – he said the Abu Dhabi Airports Company had ambitious plans that included several alternatives to develop the territory.

Al Otaiba said his department was considering a number of options for public transport services linking Abu Dhabi with its suburbs. The first batch of 90 buses to be run by the private sector would become operational next month.

Companies have been invited to bid for a contract to build air-conditioned bus shelters and the name of the successful firm will be announced within two months. The shelters are due to be completed in the summer of 2009.

And Al Otaiba said Abu Dhabi Municipality had already begun work on the redevelopment of Al Salam Street, which would cost up to Dh5 billion.