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Despite Economic Slowdown, Dubai Metro on Track

January 7, 2009

By Chandan Deuskar

In recent months, the global financial crisis has hit the city of Dubai, where real estate prices are sinking and development companies are laying off staff. Despite the slowdown, however, construction is progressing on Dubai Metro, an extensive new light rail system intended to ease traffic problems, according to Adnan Al Hammadi, director of rail project construction for the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Partial service is scheduled to begin in September 2009.

Dubai Metro
Image courtesy RTA

Despite the global economic crisis, construction is progressing on a new light rail system in Dubai, according to government officials.

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Trains will ply from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. A fare structure has not yet been announced. By the time the $4.2 billion project is completed in 2012, there will be 46 miles of track and a total of 47 stations. Ten of the stations, in central Dubai, will be underground.

The 32-mile Red Line will stretch from Rashidiya in the northeast to Jebel Ali in the southwest. It will pass through central Dubai, and a large portion of the line will run alongside the city’s main and often-clogged artery, Shaikh Zayed Road. The 14-mile-long Green Line will pass through the business districts of Deira and Bur Dubai. Passengers can transfer between the two lines at Union Square and BurJuman Centre, both in central Dubai.

Two additional lines have been planned: the Purple Line will run express between Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport in Jebel Ali, while the Blue Line will run alongside another main artery, Emirates Road.

According to the RTA, 78 percent of the Red Line and 53 percent of the Green Line were complete as of October 2008. In September, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler and the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, accompanied by several other dignitaries and senior officials, presided over a trial run on the Red Line.

The management, design and coordination of all the civil, structural, and architectural design is being handled by Atkins Middle East, which was appointed by the RTA through its contractor, Japanese-Turkish Metro Joint Venture (JTMJV). At the peak of the design stage, Atkins had 200 people working locally, supplemented by 400 off-site designers, says Bruce W. Maney, project manager and design director. “Being the first and doing it fast” has presented various challenges, he says.

Aedas Architects are consulting on the design of the underground stations for the Red and Green lines, along with several above-ground stations and control centers.

The “natural elements” figure into the station designs: 12 will have an earth theme, 13 a water theme, 11 an air theme, and 11 a fire theme. Shell-shaped roofs, already visible at many of the construction sites, are intended to evoke Dubai’s pearl-diving heritage. The interiors will feature “local heritage themes and contemporary interpretations of traditional geometry overlaid within the overall theme of the four elements,” explains Robert Troup, managing director of Aedas’ Middle East office.

The Japanese-made, blue and silver trains will sport a “water and air” motif. Each driverless train will consist of four economy “silver class” compartments and one “gold class” compartment, according to the RTA. “Passengers in the gold class car will experience a luxurious interior with full leather, wider seats, and a panoramic view through the front window of the train,” says Al Hammadi. One compartment will be reserved for women and children. “UAE culture strongly promotes respect toward women,” explains Al Hammadi, adding that “women and children are also free to use other compartments.”

To generate additional revenue for the project, the city is selling the naming rights for the Red and Green lines and 23 stations. The RTA emphasizes, however, that “corporate branding will be carefully managed to guard against over-commercialization.”

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