Is your Dubai Metro station changing?

If you missed the news last week, you would think a new metro station has been added to the Red Line of Dubai Metro, as the announcement of ‘Noor Bank station’ sounds somewhat unfamiliar.

In fact, the metro station was renamed following the rebranding of the adjacent Noor Islamic Bank -now Noor Bank- to which it owns its station name.

Another name change will take place on the metro line soon, although the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) did not reveal which station that would be. However, it did elaborate on the successful ‘Naming Rights Project’ of Dubai Metro.

As soon as the completion of the development of the countries’ first metro network was in sight, the public was offered the opportunity to share its anticipated success, with the first tenders opened back in 2008.

“The RTA understands that Dubai Metro has an incredible value as a communication and promotional platform, including Naming Right opportunities for some of their stations on both lines (Red and Green). It will increase national and international companies' brand awareness and reinforce their positioning in Dubai. In addition, partners will take part in developing the most advanced urban rail system,” the RTA writes on its website.

Five years down the line, there are 13 stations that are named after partners, such as Noor Bank, Nakheel, First Gulf Bank, Etisalat, and more recently Burjuman and Danube.

Although not all stations are available for renaming as they adhere to historic landmarks or areas, a selected number of stations is open for the bid, with the RTA selecting only the most suitable partners.

There are certain standard requirements that must be followed by everybody, explains Youssef Al Ali, CEO of the Public Transportation Agency (PTA) at RTA.

As such, the company must have a presence in the UAE, be financial stable, have a clear record, respect the ethics and culture of Dubai and must be a brand name rather than a family name. The company should not be involved with the sale of alcoholics, tobacco, or adult content and may not be a political party, a religion-driven party, or involve family names, to name a few conditions.

Although many companies apply for the partnership, applications are frequently rejected due to non-compliance. Furthermore, competition is apparent and the RTA narrows down the available candidates based on a list of desirable criteria.

Al Ali explains that a company is more likely to be selected when it shows commitment to Dubai, has a corporate social responsibility scheme in place, was established at least two years ago, and helps to develop ideas towards the improvement of the metro.

Furthermore, some applications just make more sense, he continues. Although proximity to the metro station is not a must, it makes more sense for a metro station to be named after a nearby company.

But this is not always the case. “Although it makes more sense to some investors to choose a station near their business headquarters, it is not a general rule that a business must be located near a metro station or must be at a certain size. Some investors choose a terminus station or the first station on the metro line due to the higher exposure and name impact.”

As each contract is signed for a period of ten year, the company is given preference if it wants to extend the contract after this period. If it does not, the bid reopens.

In case the company itself is rebranded, like what happened with Noor Bank, the name of the metro station may be changed, but this can only be done once during the ten-year contract period, explains Al Ali.

“If a Naming Right partner decides to change their identity (logo, name etc.) the RTA will honour the request and oblige by the contract agreement to change the identity of their metro station once during the ten-year contract term.”

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) model

A partnership of a whole other level is the recently announced Transit Oriented Development (TOD) model, of which Union Oasis will be the first example.

If plans of expanding this business model are going to go ahead, a metro station in Dubai will no longer be just a metro station.

A TOD is a commercial, residential or mixed-use complex designed to maximize access to public transportation, incorporating features to encourage transit use. A success story in many countries in Europe, North America and Asia, the land above Union Metro Station is the first to lend itself to the development.

By the end of last year the RTA presented its plans in front of an audience of developers, investors, banks, and officials,  encouraging their participation in what is to be the modern concept of an integrative transport hub.

"People often like to combine tasks in one trip – such as picking up coffee on the way to work or getting groceries on the way home- and therefore, convenient access to goods and services makes transit much more attractive," said the RTA.

By the end of 2014 the first contract will be awarded to develop Union Oasis, which will be built around Union metro station. Although the detailed design of the plot will be determined by the developers, the blueprint is the initiative of the RTA, which implies an unbinding emphasis on transit orientation. The concept is to increase metro ridership, while encourage walking and cycling.

"Development might result in residential units, which will be located right next to the metro station. Residents of such area will be encouraged to take the metro because it is so nearby," said Khalid Al Monayyer, Head of Public Private Partnership at the RTA. At the same time, commercial space too will encourage transportation use, as the area will be easy to access by metro, he added.

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