Dubai school bus safety improvements to come into effect in April

The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority said all buses will be fitted with electronic tracking systems using GPS to monitor their location.

DUBAI // A series of safety improvements will come into effect for school buses next month.

The Dubai Roads and Transport Authority said all buses will be fitted with electronic tracking systems using GPS to monitor their location.

School management will be allowed to modify the seating of school buses with more than 50 seats, but each bus must be equipped with two fire extinguishers, two attendants and two first aid kits.

The improvements were developed by the RTA to regulate transport requirements and standards for school buses, reported state news agency Wam.

The authority set a March 1 deadline to ban minibuses for school transport after an 18-month grace period, said Adel Shakri, director of planning and business development at RTA’s public transport agency.

The number of accidents per year has dropped by 10 per cent since the school transport law took effect, he said. “Among the key achievements made by the school transport sector in Dubai is cutting fatalities to zero in 2015,” Mr Shakri said.

In a separate development, the RTA announced it would soon be offering smartphone apps that will cover all its services.

Speaking on the sidelines of the second Intelligent Transport Systems and Smart Mobility Forum UAE in Abu Dhabi yesterday, Abdulla Al Madani, chief executive of the RTA’s corporate technical support services sector, said the apps would cover services such as parking, booking a taxi and vehicle licensing.

At the moment, these services are being offered via 10 smart apps that have been downloaded 3.7 million times.

“We’ve decided to reduce the apps from 10 to four and to combine the services, based on our studies on customer behaviour and requirements,” he said.

“These will be the main RTA app, which is already available, one will be dedicated to drivers and vehicles licensing, one would be dedicated to public transport, and one would be for the business sector, where they need to renew their licences and other services.”

In May 2013, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announced a two-year deadline to implement the Smart Government services, for government departments to move their services to electronic format. “We implemented it by April 2015, a month ahead of schedule,” said Mr Al Madani, who is part of the Smart Dubai executive committee and leads the Smart City committee within the RTA.

Sheikh Mohammed issued a directive in February 2014 to make Dubai the “smartest city on earth” within three years.

“Indeed, it is quite a challenge but as we’ve seen in the past, nothing is impossible in Dubai,” Mr Al Madani said.

Sampo Hietanen, chief executive and founder of mobility-as-a-service company Maas Finland, agreed. “I think Dubai has a good shot at being the smartest city on Earth,” he said. “You need to have the leadership and I think they’ve gone past the idea of opening a bit of data here and there. Dubai has passed the threshold of understanding that it’s not just the data, it’s about delivering the services.”

Last October, the RTA launched its Smart Mall project, which enables users to shop ­using an interactive screen. One opened at the Mall of the Emirates metro station. It will be rolled out at four metro stations by the end of this year.

Of the 100 smart bus shelters being built by the RTA, 25 will be completed by the end of this month, and 75 others by April.

rruiz@thenational.ae