Emirates to co-ordinate transport development

Officials are working on plans to co-ordinate transport development across the Emirates and set national standards.

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DUBAI // Officials are working on plans to co-ordinate transport development across the Emirates. The London-based company Atkins has been appointed to co-ordinate the various emirates' transport strategies, to help people and freight move more easily around the country and over its borders. It will also help the National Transport Authority set national standards in areas such as motorway safety.

At present, each emirate has its own transport goals - Abu Dhabi, for example, is preparing to release its plans for infrastructure development over the next 20 years - but there is little co-ordination between them. Safety standards can also differ. "Each local area has responsibility for its own local needs," said Bassam Mansour, a railways expert with the NTA. "That's right because they are in touch with the reality at a local level.

"However, interconnection, inter-emirates, cross-border and international transport issues have got to be at the federal level." Jonathan Spear, a director with Atkins, said the plan envisaged the authority having "some kind of review role" of local transport plans. "The development of a new airport, new ports and such, the impacts of those will be felt across the whole UAE and in fact can be felt internationally," he said. "We need to have a way at looking at those impacts across boundaries."

He highlighted the "metropolitan areas" of Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, which he said were becoming "increasingly economically integrated" and needed transport planned "in an integrated way across those three networks". Speaking after a meeting of transport officials at the InterContinental Hotel in Dubai Festival City, Ali al Suwaidi, the director of the Sharjah Public Service Department, agreed that there was a need for a pan-Emirates approach to transport.

"We want a code that will be suitable for all the emirates," he said. "A standard for the railways, highways, even the transport ways for buses. This will be a very good standard." Policies being considered include taxing high-emission vehicles, incentives for low-emission ones, parking controls, tolls and congestion charging. Pete George, Atkins' regional associate director for strategic transport planning, added that a nationwide highway code was also a possibility.