Traditional abra will disappear from Dubai Creek

Electric abra is an environment-friendly alternative to motorised abra. (File)

Every day hundreds of motorised abras cross the Dubai Creek between Bur Dubai and Deira. Costing just Dh1 per trip, these wooden boats form the main link between the two sides of the waterway, which is frequently visited by tourists as well as residents.

The motorised abra is one of the oldest means of transportation, and has until now been the most popular mode of water transportation in the emirate. The service represents 70 per cent of the total marine ridership. Over the first 10 months of this year, the service transported 7 million passengers across the waterways.

Yet, it will not be long until the traditional boats will have to make place for the more modern version of its kind – the electrical abra- and other marine transportation means, according to the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

“RTA marine services such as the Water Bus, the Water Taxi, Dubai Ferry as well as the electric abra will take over and replace the traditional abra in the near future in order to enhance safety standards and enable the expansion of its services on the coastal water ways and Dubai Marina,” said Hussein Khansaheb, Director of Marine Transportation at the RTA, in an interview with ‘Emirates24|7’ discussing the future of Dubai’s waterways.

The electric abra is an environment-friendly alternative to the motorised Abra, and has successfully been introduced as a tourist-oriented transit mode on several water bodies, this year seeing a major expansion of its services with new lines departing from Atlantis, the Palm and Al Mamzar Beach.

Its popularity is increasing, partly because of the much-anticipated Burj Khalifa lake trips that were introduced last year. It has become a major tourist attraction at the lake, and ridership numbers as well as customer satisfaction have proven its popularity, pointed Khansaheb out.

However, 2014 was also the year of the Dubai Ferry, with new routes springing up. Al Mamzar became a departing place for the ferry for the first time, and a trip across the emirate was introduced, commuting between Al Gubaiba and Dubai Marina Mall.

“The main difference between the electric abra and Dubai Ferry is that the abra is geared towards the tourist, while the ferry is serving more as a commuter service,” says Khansaheb. Nevertheless, the spacious and ultramodern vessel takes its passengers on spectacular sightseeing tours.

In general, 2014 was a good year for the enhancement of marine transportation. During the first ten months the ridership numbers increased with a million, and a total of 526,821 passengers used the water bus, ferry, electrical abra and Water Taxi in the past eight months.

Since Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in today's world, providing high quality marine infrastructure facilities is an absolutely imperative,” said Khansaheb.

What is available now is only the beginning, with many more routes and new waterways to be opened in the months to follow. A route to link Festival City with the Metro Line is about to be opened with a new marine station at Al Jadaf, and the World Islands are to become the next spectacular destination.

“There are many marine projects in Dubai’s coastal water way, and the World Islands are one of these locations where we aim to introduce our service. Further, we are currently focusing on enhancing commuter services at Al Mamzar, elaborated Khansaheb.

In order to make marine transportation more appealing as a commuter service, there are some challenges ahead, one of them being the rise in temperatures during summer. As residents opt to stay cool and dry, the marine stations are not a popular option to wait for the next transit mode.

“We know the demand, and in order to response to the demand, we are currently in discussion with property developers and related stakeholders to enhance the marine stations,” the director revealed. “Integration with other transportation modes is another challenge for our department.”

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