Dubai tests bus routes to Metro stations

The RTA is pushing through plans for 41 additional or adapted services and 778 extra buses to ferry passengers to the rail stations.

DUBAI - JUNE 8, 2009 - Metro train parked at Jebel Ali station in Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PV Station 6.jpg
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DUBAI // With three months to go before the launch of the Metro, transport officials are testing feeder bus routes designed to make it easier for residents to use the new rail system. On September 9, the first phase of the Metro, the Red Line, will open for business, carrying passengers the length of Sheikh Zayed Road from Rashidiya to Jebel Ali.

To serve it, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) aims to put an extra 778 buses on the roads. Mohammed al Hashimi, the director of planning and business development at the RTA's Public Transport Agency, said yesterday that the feeder routes, whose numbers would be prefixed with F, were being introduced in stages. "We have already launched three routes serving Ibn Battuta Mall. The F43, F46 and F53 are covering Discovery Gardens, the Green Community, Dubai Lagoons and Dubai Industrial City."

The launch of the 52km Red Line of the Dh15.5 billion (US$4.2bn) driverless Metro project will be followed next March by that of the 22km Green Line. The 41 Red Line feeder routes will include 10 modified existing ones, with buses running on average every 10 minutes. The city currently has 1,300 buses; by the end of this year the RTA plans to have 1,800, rising to 2,100 in another year. "We will start our feeder services by mid-June to capture demand and make them familiar for people to get used to the feeder service," said Mr al Hashimi. The feeder buses will be the same colour and type as those already running on the 80 existing routes.

During the trial phase, the buses will carry passengers to stops near the Metro stations, such as Ibn Battuta Mall. Each station will be served by an average of three to four routes. The RTA is also trying to get all its buses prepared for the Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) system, which Mr al Hashimi said was slightly behind schedule. The first new buses are expected to be delivered by the end of July and they will have to be reconfigured to use AFC.

The AFC system will enable people with a prepaid card to travel by Metro, bus and the abra water taxis. "We are operating 35 routes by AFC and our target is to have by the end of July all our urban routes using AFC." He said the RTA was adding 15 to 20 routes a month to the AFC system, leaving a possible surplus of 15 by the deadline. "For July, we have to push more by the last month. This is our plan but we are a little bit delayed, because of some problems with the installations of the equipment, but by the end of July we have to have the AFC."

Plans were also in place to provide a bus stop at Jebel Ali station for coaches serving Abu Dhabi. "In the future we will connect Jebel Ali Metro stations for the buses to go to Abu Dhabi. That is not now but maybe by the middle of 2010," Mr al Hashimi added. Another challenge was to attract 30 per cent of the city's population on to public transport. "There will be 1,500 additional bus shelters to facilitate the feeder services to attract people to use the buses.

"The maximum walking distance will not exceed 500 metres."