In only a few years, a typical resident of Dubai could reach for an all-zone travel card rather than the keys to his or her SUV when off to the mall.
The Roads and Transport Authority has over the past few months announced radical multi-billion dirham plans to consign to history the emirate’s over-reliance on cars.
The RTA believes by 2012 it can achieve a target of reducing private vehicles, from 95 per cent of the total vehicles on the roads to about 70 per cent.
One way it wants to achieve this is by creating a rail network, which will make owning vehicles needless. The emirate is spending Dh15 billion on the construction of Dubai Metro, the fastest driverless train system in the world. It will initially have two lines, Green and Red, with a combined length of 74 kilometre and a total of 47 stations.
In future, a 47km Blue line will be constructed along Emirates Road, together with another stretch of 49km – the Purple line – on Al Khail Road. The RTA hopes to have a total of 318km of Metro lines by 2020.
Many of the Metro links will complement the vast developments in Dubailand, including Dubai Sports City and Bawadi, which will attract tens of thousands of people each year. Furthermore, there are plans for the Dh200bn Bawadi tourist destination to have its own “monopods”.
Besides the main Metro lines, the RTA will create networks of trams in Dubai’s Central Business Districts and in residential areas across the city to make it easier for people to move between the various nodal points of the railway. Dubai hopes to have a total of 270km of tramways by 2020.
Recently, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved the Dh4bn Al Sufouh Tram Project, stretching 14km along Al Sufouh Road. It will link Madinat Jumeirah and Mall of the Emirates with Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence, with a string of 19 stations. Each tram will be 44 metres long with a capacity to accommodate 300 passengers. The tram fleet will have 11 cars in phase one, while 14 more will be added in phase two. The tramcars will have stylish interior designs and the latest entertainment technologies as a way to attract people who are used to drop-down screens and DVD players in their cars. The Al Sufouh route, which is scheduled for completion next year, is intended to serve as a model for other, future, tram networks across Dubai.
Besides the rail network, funded by the Dubai Government, private developers have announced monorail projects that will be linked to Dubai Metro or tram networks to make the rail and tram services more accessible and wholly integrated.
Private monorails are expected to account for 34 per cent of the total rail network in Dubai by 2020. The Dh1.4bn, 5.4km Palm Jumeirah Monorail being constructed by Nakheel is already 90 per cent complete and should be operational by early 2009. Nakheel is planning to have a similar monorail on The Palm Deira to ease the movement of residents and visitors.
Other monorail networks, with an estimated total of 300km, are being planned for the Dubai International Financial Centre, City of Arabia, Dubai Waterfront, Burj Dubai, Dubai Festival and Dubai World Central.
Environment-friendly people-movers are also part of the overall plan for Downtown Jebel Ali, a mixed-use residential and business hub being built by Limitless.
“With this kind of rail network, coupled with the increase in the number of state-of-the-art buses, water buses, ferries and taxis, we are confident an increasing number of people will find it more convenient to use public transport. Our challenge is to ensure that everyone has access to fast public transport, wherever they may be,” said an RTA official.
Having an integrated public transport system could mean Dubai’s congested roads would once again be free of traffic jams.