Relief nears for fed up Ajman-Dubai commuters

The two municipalities plan to launch the water taxi service by next June, improving travel options and opening up opportunities for investment.

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AJMAN // Commuters sweltering in frustration while they make their way on public transportation between Dubai and Ajman should find relief in a new water taxi service. Ajman Municipality said yesterday it would launch the first inter-emirate water taxi service, in conjunction with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority, by June next year.

With an initial budget of about Dh30 million (US$8.2m), the service will operate 10 air-conditioned boats at first, ferrying as many as 30 passengers each between 17 stations, including two on Ajman Corniche. The fare would be Dh10. Mohammed al Muahairi, the director of planning at Ajman Municipality, said his agency and the Dubai RTA were introducing the water taxis to address the problem of inadequate transportation between the emirates.

The RTA has only limited bus services to Ajman and operates it in the early morning and late evening. Commuters have complained about the time and expense involved in the alternative: riding by taxi from Ajman to the Sharjah Ghubaiba bus station and travelling by bus from there. For Ajman residents who work in Dubai, the water taxis would bring significant relief from the daily woes of travelling by public transport between the emirates.

Ausi Zirimenya, who lives in Ajman Rashidiya and works in Dubai Media City, is among the commuters frustrated by poor transport options. Mr Zirimenya said keeping his job would be easier once the water taxis took off. "I wake up at 4am and start my work journey by boarding a taxi to Sharjah. Then, from Sharjah, I take a bus to Bur Dubai, and again from Bur Dubai to Media City," he said. Mr Zirimenya said he has commuted in this way since his company moved from Sharjah to Dubai a year ago. Trying to get a driver's licence has been futile; he does not have time to attend driving classes.

"I have always had two options: to either leave my job or change my residence. In Ajman, I stay for free and [would] need a lot of money to rent in Dubai." The Ajman Municipality's Mr al Muahairi said in addition to two water taxi stations planned for the Ajman Corniche, at least one station would be located at the Ajman fish market. Most stations would be in Dubai. "In total we would have up to 17 stations in both Dubai and Ajman [and] commuters could be dropped on any station near the area they want to go," he said.

The diesel-powered boats to be used by the taxi fleet will be 11-metres long and measure four-meters wide at the beam. Authorities hope to transport as many as half a million passengers in the first year of the service, Mr al Muahairi said. "The water taxis would be a big boost to our tourism; many tourists would love to move around the country on water and this is the opportunity." He also said investors would be able to provide amenities such as restaurants and cafeterias in the vicinity of the stations.

On the roads, traffic pressures would be eased, Mr al Muahairi said. "In our feasibility study for this project, we also found that traffic congestion would be reduced by a good percentage," he said. "Many people staying in Ajman would easily give up their vehicles" for an affordable and reliable alternative way of reaching their destinations.