Lack of AC in Abu Dhabi bus shelters has commuters hot and bothered

Instead of providing a cool refuge from the sweltering summer heat, commuters are working up a sweat inside some AC bus shelters in the capital while others are concerned about the lack of shelters at other locations.

Hot and bothered passengers wait for a bus inside a shelter located on Muroor Road near the Madinat Zayed shopping mall and the Gold Centre in Abu Dhabi, just of the many shelters with a malfunctioning AC or defective automatic doors. Ravindranath K / The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Hundreds of bus passengers are sweltering in the searing heat because many of the shelters are lacking air conditioning, an exclusive investigation by The National has revealed.

Bus users wait in many of the 52 shelters in the capital’s Muroor Road and Airport Road, expecting to be protected from the hot weather.

But instead many are dripping with perspiration and feeling faint.

Last week, Abu Dhabi announced it was looking to embark on a public transport revolution, but it accepted that a major hurdle was convincing commuters that they need to change the way they think about it.

The passengers we spoke to, however, believe the Department of Transport has as a long way to go before it can convince potential commuters to leave thair cars at home and catch a bus.

Parvindar Singh was one such passenger. As he sat helplessly inside one of several air-conditioned bus shelters on Muroor Road, waiting to catch bus 110 to take him to Mussaffah, he said: "What's the use of an AC bus shelter when it's not even working?"

Instead of providing a cool refuge from the sweltering summer heat, he and seven others were working up a sweat inside the glass-walled structure.

The 43-year-old security supervisor from India, who has lived in the UAE for nine years, said that “we face the same problem every summer” and added that he was worried about women and children waiting in bus shelters that have fallen into disrepair.

“We are all suffering,” he said. “But I really feel bad for the woman in an abaya and a niqab.”

In December 2012, the DoT announced it would open 360 air-conditioned shelters in the emirate by the start of this year at a cost of Dh100 million.

The National checked on 31 air-conditioned shelters on both sides of Muroor Road during the week. Of these, 10 did not have working AC, and it had yet to be installed at three new bus shelters.

Checks on 21 bus shelters in Airport Road showed 12 had faulty AC units. Fifteen of the 52 in Muroor and Airport roads had defective sliding doors, two were locked, and water was dripping from the ceiling at four shelters.

Noor Salem, 31, from Kenya, who was wearing a black abaya and a scarf that covered her face except for her eyes, sat in apparent discomfort with three other women.

Each shelter is supposed to be temperature controlled at between 22°C and 24°C, and accommodate eight people seated, eight standing, and one in a wheelchair.

“Since the AC isn’t working why can’t they at least put a ceiling fan here?” Ms Salem said. “They need to build a bigger shelter, fix the AC and the defective doors.”

The problem of the automatic sliding doors being left open has been persistent for more than two years, passengers said.

Archie Espiritu, 41, a merchandiser from the Philippines, said authorities should check the compressors of the air-conditioners, and fix the shelter’s doors to keep the cold air in.

“Many of us are forced to stand outside and wait for 15 to 30 minutes for the bus,” he said.

Mohammed Faisal, a 24-year-old banker who works in personal finance, relies on buses, using them between five and six times a day to meet clients.

He has to endure a 15 to 20 minute wait in the heat near an old bus shelter in front of Liwa Centre on Hamdan Street.

“We definitely need more AC bus shelters in the city centre,” he said. “There should be more buses so we do not have to wait for a long time in this heat.”

Anand Kumar, 22, who works for a bank, agreed.

“All bus shelters in the city should be fully covered and with a working AC,” he said. “There should be extra buses on busy routes.” There are 650 buses on more than 95 routes in the emirate.

The DoT plans to open 360 AC shelters –160 in Abu Dhabi city and its suburbs, 80 in the Western Region, and 120 in Al Ain and its suburbs.

The project gives priority to hospitals, schools, shopping centres, labour camps and airports, followed by residential areas, parks, hotels, clinics and main roads, and industrial and far-flung areas.

The planned locations in Abu Dhabi city were Khalidiya, Al Falah, Tourist Club area, City Centre and Al Mushrif, while the areas in its suburbs were Al Raha Beach, Baniyas, Khalifa City A, Al Mafraq, Mussaffah, Al Samha, Yas Island and Abu Dhabi International Airport.

In the Western Region, the DoT said, AC bus shelters were to be built in Liwa, Al Ruwais, Al Sila, Delma Island, Bida Mutawa, Ghayathi and Jebel Dhanna.

In Al Ain city and it suburbs, shelters will be located in Al Foah, Al Mutaredh, Al Khatam, Al Jaheli, Al Ain Municipality, Al Jimi and Al Qattara.

Not everybody was complaing, however. Adolf Aranha Shenoy, 68, a businessman who has lived in the UAE for 35 years, said residents should be more appreciative of the Government’s bus services.

“All the facilities here are the best,” he said. “We should learn to appreciate the improvements made to this city over the years. People do not sit for a long time in a bus shelter. No one has time to sit inside one.”

Oliver Aguilar, 29, an aircraft technician, uses a working shelter on Airport Road across from Fathima Supermarket.

“We’re lucky that it’s cool,” he said. “But there are days when the AC is switched off.”

He and Jinendra Jayanath, 31, a clerk at Premium Motors, were the only passengers inside the shelter.

“It’s good that we’re sitting inside a bus shelter with a working AC,” he said. “But this has to be maintained at all times.”

The DoT did not respond to a request for comment.