Metro may be extended to Academic City

A 20-kilometre extension of the Green Line is under consideration to serve the thousands of students and staff in Academic City.

DUBAI // A 20-kilometre extension of the Green Line to Academic City is under consideration to serve the thousands of students and staff in its colleges and institutions.

Transport authorities will decide by the end of the year whether to put the extension to the campus, about 7km southeast of the Emirates Road-E66 junction, on the drawing board. The study, which will take two months to complete, ties in with a master plan to review all RTA projects in Dubai.

Students and administrators welcomed news that the new line, scheduled to open in August next year, may be linked to the area. Rohit Ratnaparkhi, an engineering student from India, said current public transport options of either taking a taxi or a bus to the isolated area were either too costly or extremely inconvenient.

"We are almost completely cut off here," said Mr Ratnaparkhi, 21. "The Metro would save so much time. Any journey takes us two hours each way if we take the bus, and cabs are expensive.

"A Metro will make a big difference because so many students come here from all around Dubai and from other emirates. It's really important to have a Metro connection because 10 years down the line there will be so many more universities."

The agency has previously said a lack of nearby property development and scattered population were reasons for project postponements. Those were also the main reasons given for not opening the three remaining Red Line stations at Jebel Ali, Jebel Ali Industrial and Energy last month.

That is unlikely to be the case when it comes to the Academic City proposal. The educational facility, established in 2005, is expected to serve about 40,000 students at 40 colleges and institutions by 2015. More than two dozen schools are already in operation there. The cost of an extension to the campus was not available and the RTA said a final decision on the extension was yet to be taken.

"We cannot talk about implementing anything until we finish looking at the master plan, which will consider all the projects along with changes in development," said Abdul Redha al Hassan, the RTA rail planning and development director. "We have to restudy all that."

That failed to damp enthusiasm among educators who said the Metro would erase time and distance constraints that prevent students from choosing institutions in Academic City.

"There is a tingle of excitement that some day we're going to be connected," said Uma Prasad, the student services officer at Manipal University, which has a campus there. "Time-wise, and accessibility-wise, it will be a boon to students, faculty and the administrative staff. The Metro will mean enrolments will rise."

Other residents near the Green Line are also eagerly awaiting its launch. Janice Oly, who lives near its Al Ghubaiba station, is among those waiting to get on board.

"I look at the station every day and keep hoping the service will start before next year," said Ms Oly, an office assistant whose commute takes an hour in a private van. "I envy my colleagues who use the Metro. It's fast and convenient. They come and go as they please."

Trial runs on the Green Line have already begun and will last for six months, unlike the Red Line, where test runs were rushed through in two weeks. The RTA hopes rigorous testing will smooth over glitches that marred the Red Line opening last year, such as train delays and passengers being stranded on trains stuck between stations.

"On the Green Line it will be done better," Mr al Hassan said. "We will make test runs to integrate all the systems, to check safety."

The new line will feature the Al Ittihad station, connecting it with the Red Line. It will be the world's biggest Metro station, covering 25,000 square metres on two levels. Its two parallel tunnels will take commuters to the Khalid bin al Waleed or Al Rigga stations on the Red Line, or to Bani Yas or Salah al Din on the Green Line.

The Dh29 billion Metro will be the world's longest driverless rail system when complete. The opening of the Green Line is expected to double the number of passengers to 270,000.

Purple line in pipeline?

Metro projects that have not yet been cleared include the Purple Line and an extension of the existing Red Line to the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border.

The Purple Line would run along the Al Khail Road and connect Dubai International Airport with Al Maktoum Airport in Jebel Ali. The design for the 12km Abu Dhabi link was ready a year ago, said Abdul Redha al Hassan, the RTA director for rail planning and development.

“We have the design but we couldn’t implement it because of stoppage of development in that area,” he said. “If we built the five stations and extend the line, no one would use the stations or the line.”