Abu Dhabi to add new public buses to Musaffah

Transport officials say they will halve the waiting time for a bus from the capital to Musaffah from next month.

Abu Dhabi - July 3, 2008. A bus pulls up to a stop on Airport rd and Al Saada street. ( Philip Cheung / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PC0022-Bus.jpgPC0022-Bus.jpg
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ABU DHABI // Bus passengers between Musaffah and Abu Dhabi can expect shorter waits from next month, a transport official said. Saaed al Hameli, the general manager of buses for the Department of Transport, said more buses would run to Musaffah in February as the department aimed to gradually improve the service from one every 40 minutes to one every 20 minutes. Although the department added nine bus routes for Abu Dhabi island in June and kept the service free until March, routes to the suburbs of Musaffah, Baniyas and Shahama were little improved.

Musaffah is a busy route used by residents on low incomes who live in the suburbs and work in the city, and whose companies do not provide transport. A single ride to Musaffah costs Dh2, while sharing a taxi with other passengers, an alternative for commuters who do not have the time to wait for buses, costs Dh5 a ride. Buses are scheduled to depart to and from Musaffah every 40 minutes, but passengers said they sometimes wait more than an hour.

"In February it will improve because we have put in a plan to improve the services," Mr al Hameli said. "I recently signed on the new proposed routes. They are in implementation now." Some of the older white and blue buses that service the suburbs have been refurbished and will be added to the Musaffah route, he said. "They are getting better frequency and better service. For frequency we are aiming to reach below 20 minutes. We are trying to reach 20 minutes at every stop."

Commuters from Baniyas and Shahama, where bus departures are also unpredictable, can also expect improvements, although Mr al Hameli did not say whether they would happen in February. One hundred buses from the German manufacturer MAN are expected on the island's roads by March 1, the same time the department intends to start charging passengers for rides on the island. As those buses are introduced, some buses that took to the road in June will be moved to new routes including the suburbs.

Commuters to Musaffah waiting for the bus yesterday were pleased to hear improvements were coming. "It's good because now they come every one hour," said Hanadee Essam, a 22-year-old Sudanese woman who was born in Abu Dhabi. Ms Essam took the bus from Abu Dhabi to Musaffah a few times a week, she said, but never from Musaffah in the morning when she went to work at a real estate company because she could not depend on the bus to be on time.

"Of course, I would not take a taxi if they came every 20 minutes," she said. Surya Maden, 33, travels on the bus once a week from his home in Musaffah to shop in the city and said he sometimes waited an hour to catch a city bus. "If there is another bus every 20 minutes it would be very good for us," Mr Maden said. "It will be a gift for us. It will save our time." By the end of this year there will be about 750 air-conditioned buses operating around the emirate, and 1,360 by the end of next year.

There will also be more than 700 shelters, many of them air-conditioned, for bus passengers. The first 170 shelters are expected to open this summer. Routes connecting the city to Sheikh Khalifa City and the towns of Al Mafraq and Al Falah are also planned. mchung@thenational.ae