Excavation for a subway tunnel, a vital section of the Route 2020 metro project was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid on Tuesday.
The 3.2km tunnel between Discovery Gardens and Green Community will form part of a 15 kilometre extension of the Dubai Metro to the Expo 2020 site.
A giant tunnel digger, the Wegisha Expo 2020, has been deployed to smash rocks, bore through underground stretches and power past sandy layers readying the ground for the underground rail and to connect it with a 11.8km elevated track.
The Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, accompanied by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, was taken through the progress on the Red Line path - that will feature seven stations of which two are underground - by Mattar Al Tayer, director general and chairman of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority.
Photographs and video released showed construction work and installation of the heavy machinery and equipment that will connect the Dh10.6billion metro link from Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station to the world fair site.
The tunnel will be between 12.5m and 36m underground and excavation is expected to be completed by December 2018.
The 103-metre-long machine is powered by hydraulic cranes to propel the drilling process.
A metal wheel will push through the soil and pipes will extract the mud as the machine crushes gravel to carve out the underground segments. All activity monitored from a control room.
The metal wheel varies in shape depending on the type of drilling work required and coarseness of the surrounding soil.
A 12-metre deep area in Al Furjan was readied for giant tunnel boring machine, named Al Wugeisha Expo 2020, in October with concrete walls reinforced with steel beams before the tunnel drilling equipment was placed within.
Five stations above ground, two underground stations, an interchange area, and an expo station will also be built to serve passengers travelling to the site.
The main Expo station will be modelled after the wings of a plane and will be the central connection point of the World Fair.
The distinctive sweep and curve of the outer structure will make it stand out from the other elevated stations along Route 2020 that will match the Dubai Metro’s pearl theme, according to the RTA.
Work on the new link will connect the Red Line service on Sheikh Zayed Road to the expo grounds in Dubai South.
Travel time from Dubai Marina to the Expo site is expected to take just 16 minutes once the extension is complete.
The new stations will serve more than 270,000 passengers in residential and commercial areas including the Gardens, Discovery Gardens, Al Furjan, Jumeirah Golf Estates and Dubai Investments Park.
There are also plans to extend the line to the Al Maktoum International Airport that is 6km away from the expo site.
The route cuts through high density population areas since the objective is for the new service to support visitors during the six-month duration of the world fair, existing and future communities in the emirate.
The new link is expected to handle 20 per cent of people coming to the expo with trains ferrying 35,000 commuters daily during the week, expected to rise to 47,000 passengers on weekends.
Plans include transporting 46,000 commuters an hour in both directions on Route 2020.
Mr Al Tayer had said the RTA drew up the route after in-depth assessments on the impact on the neighbourhood and communities.
“It serves the largest possible number of residents as well as current and future projects, easing snarls on some congested road sectors, providing top class service to targeted communities, and integrating with public transit,” he said.
Construction work on the project began after the foundation stone was laid in September last year with drilling work starting on Tuesday.
A conglomerate of French, Spanish and Turkish firms is working on the infrastructure, civil and electromechanical construction of Route 2020 with all railway works expected to be completed in July 2019 and trial runs planned to start in February 2020 ahead of the Expo opening.
The RTA has said that 50 new trains would be bought with 15 earmarked for the expo service.
Last week, the Red Line reopened at Jumeirah Lakes Towers Station and Ibn Battuta Station after being closed on Fridays and Saturdays for 10 weeks for work on the extension.