New transport plan is the talk of the town

Residents of quiet Al Yahar no longer have to hitch a ride in lorries with the introduction of three bus routes connecting them to Al Ain.

ABU DHABI - 28APRIL2011 - Saif Najeb al Hajeri a resident of al Yahar area near Al Ain tells how he feels about the new bus services and bus station would help many residence in al Yahar area near Al Ain. Ravindranath K / The National
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AL YAHAR // Ten kilometres out of Al Ain, the Al Yahar exit from the Abu Dhabi motorway leads to a quiet, residential area where the mere presence of a newcomer is instantly spotted.

"We all know each other," said Aisha Saeed, a 24-year-old from Al Yahar. "We have memorised the cars here."

Cars and people are a rare sight in parts of the area, which stretches north and south for kilometres beyond the sand dunes.

"We like it here, we are used to it," Miss Saeed said. "It is not as quiet as people think."

It may not look like it but, according to Saif al Hajeri, 23, the area is home to thousands of people.

"Shocking I know, but just because there are no malls here, doesn't mean there is no one," he said. "It is more populated than people think. We are mostly locals here, but also a lot of expats - Indians mostly."

He added, "We have no buses and it is rare to find a taxi here. In the morning you see poor little children walking back and forth from Al Yahar South to Al Yahar North."

No malls and a lack of public transport - a problem that has worsened as the population has risen.

But all this will soon change. That 45-minute walk from Al Yahar South to Al Yahar North, and those lorry rides, will be done with. By the end of the year, Abu Dhabi's Department of Transport announced this week, three new bus routes will bring public transport to Al Yahar.

The first two will start running by June; the 490 between Al Ain and Al Yahar North, and the 493 between Al Ain and Al Yahar South.

The 491, due to start in October, will make its journey between Al Ain and Al Yahar municipality.

And although many of those who live here have long become used to the area's lack of transport, the news has been met with a sigh of relief.

"It is great that there will be more services here," said BS, a 17-year-old from Al Yahar North. "But, to be honest, I would not use it. But others probably will. We have our own car."

However, when the car breaks down, she said, the whole family's movement becomes disabled. "It is a huge problem if the car has a problem. We need it, especially here."

With no taxis, said Mohammed Kutty, a salesman at Eve grocery in Al Yahar South, expatriates often catch rides with pick-up trucks to get to the main road.

"There is a bus that comes from Abu Dhabi going towards Al Ain that stops on the highway for a short while," he said. "But, of course, no one knows what time they come, and we have to walk far to get it. People call me from their house so I deliver groceries to them if they have no car."

Rebecca Nashoba, a driver for a local woman, said that all the Emirati families in Al Yahar have cars - and drivers.

"There are no taxis, we must drive them around," she said.

But some Emiratis in the area say they would be more than willing to use the new services.

"I studied at Higher College of Technology in Al Ain - I used to go and come back with my car, but if there was a bus, why not use it?" Mr al Hajeri said.

Most delighted are the area's Asian workers.

"We do not want to leave here; it is cheap," said SS, an Indian salesman at a grocery store. "One building costs around Dh130,000 only, imagine. But, of course, we have to travel and go to Al Ain or Abu Dhabi, we cannot just stay in Al Yahar."

Mohammed Jaffar, an Indian salesmen at a textile store in Al Yahar North, said the luxury of a driver, which most of his customers have, is out of his reach.

"This is why this is so important for us," he said. "It would be cheap, too."

Salim al Mansouri, a 29-year-old from Dubai, has come to Al Yahar to run some errands. He said he would prefer taking a bus, rather than making a two-hour drive.

"Of course it is not like being in the comfort of your car, but it is an option," he said. "The only way to find out is to try the buses when they come."