This year in September, Dubai Metro entered its fifth year of operation. Circa 2013, it serves two lines, 46 stations and has served more than 300 million passengers since its inception.

On November 28, the day after Dubai won the right to host World Expo 2020, Dubai Metro served its second largest number of passengers ever; on this day, 530,395 commuters travelled by the Metro. With a difference of little more than 50,000, this was close to the record-breaking New Year’s Eve of 2012.

This New Year’s Eve, in a couple of days, is expected to be even bigger. And proudly steaming forward to 2014, a lot more significant changes are expected to be unveiled.

Emirates 24|7
 sat down with Mohammed Al Mudharreb, Director of Rail Operations at the Road and Transport Authority (RTA), to look back at 2013, while getting a sneak preview of the year to come.

Dubai Metro in 2013

This year was definitely a year full of exciting news for Dubai Metro commuters. On the Red Line, Energy Metro Station became operational in September, which means that now all 29 metro stations on the Red Line are fully operational.

The Metro station, located between Danube and Ibn Battuta stations, serves the working and residential population of Jebel Ali Industrial area. “This station facilitates customers to transfer between bus and metro. About 30 per cent of Metro passengers at the Energy Station are transferred from bus,” said Al Mudharreb.

When it opened in September, it was expected to increase total ridership as well as serve existing commuters. Asked about the success of this station, Al Mudharreb said that about 4 per cent of passengers at the Energy Station were new Metro users.

The total number of passengers on both the Red Line and the Green Line increased by 26 per cent, based on statistics available in November this year. This is exceptional growth, indicating that Dubai Metro has become an integral part of the daily lives of Dubai residents, said Al Mudharreb.

“Dubai Metro has shown that it can consistently provide passengers with a reliable, efficient, customer friendly and on time service which is affordable and comfortable. Such consistency in the service level has contributed to its growth.”

In terms of customer friendliness, the extension of the women and children carriage was probably one of the more welcomed moves. In September this year, space exclusive for women and children in the metro was extended from one carriage to one-and-a-half during peak hours.

Between 7-9am and 5-8pm from Sunday to Thursday, an extra space good for 622 persons is reserved for women and children only.

“This move has been well received so far and it will continue to exist in 2014.  However, periodic assessment will be made to look at the demand,” commented AL Mudharreb.

Train frequency was improved a couple of times, responding to the increased number of passengers and metro signage was expanded, most notably with directive arrows where to get in and where to get off the metro in an attempt to streamline entrance behaviour. Similarly, stickers urging passengers to let people get off before entering were strategically pasted onto every metro door.

Technology-wise, Dubai Metro contributed its fair share to the imperative of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, to turn Dubai into a smart city. Although yet restricted to the silver card, the Nol card is now available as a smart mobile payment method, for every smartphone with NFC technology.

“NFC service for public transport was launched in September 2013. NFC-certified smartphones can be used in Metro and buses, and customers can use the NFC smartphone to check their ePurse balance, see the latest trips and top up,” said Al Mudharreb.

Some other highlights: the most crowded day (for 2013) on the Metro was November 28, the day after Dubai won the vote to host Expo 2020. On this day 530,395 commuters travelled by the Metro.

What’s expected in 2014?

“We absolutely expect similar growth in 2014,” said Al Mudharreb. “Apart from the high service level that Dubai Metro provides consistently to our passengers, Dubai winning the bid to hold World Expo 2020 will also contribute to this growth.”

Chairman of the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) Mattar al Tayer earlier pointed out that the Red Line of Dubai Metro would be extended to reach the exhibition site of the Expo, where a new metro station will be built to serve the visitors of the Expo.

In addition, several alternative solutions have been examined. Among the possibilities is the extension of the Red line to serve both the development projects adjacent to the Expo as well as the Expo site in one route, he elaborated.

However, no timeframe of such projects has been announced, and it is unlikely that all of it will be realised in 2014. What we do know is that 2014 will see two new metro stations on the Green Line.

“Two more stations on the Green Line will be opened,” said Al Mudharreb. Although no names were mentioned, there are currently two metro stations on the Green Line that are not yet operational: Jaddaf and Creek.

It has long been announced that the Green Line of Dubai Metro would eventually be extended from Jadaf to Academic City, a move which would be welcomed by residents in these areas.

Another topic of much anticipation is the metro time schedule on Friday. Other than on regular weekdays, the first train on Friday departs at 1pm, much to the despair of early birds who would like to make a commute on their day off.

The good news is that the RTA has considered changing the Friday time schedule for Dubai Metro, said Al Mudharreb. “Studies are currently being done to look at passenger demand and the impact on the maintenance regime of the railway system.”

Music on the metro, another point of frustration expressed by metro users, will not come back in 2014. “We have received feedback from many of our regular passengers requesting for the music to be stopped.  There is no plan to reinstate the playing of background music in the metro in 2014,” said Al Mudharreb.

New Year’s Eve

Although preparations for the year to come are in full swing, currently all eyes are on New Year’s Eve, when thousands of people use Dubai metro to reach their destination.

Last year, Dubai Metro recorded 587,542 passengers on New Year’s Eve, facilitated by the fact that Metro users did not have to swipe their Nol card as they were checking in for the metro.

Special software installed for the metro fare system to enabled smooth travel during New Year’s Eve, allowing passengers to check in without tapping their cards or tickets at selected stations. Tapping of their cards or tickets was done only when they checked out at the exit stations,” explained Al Mudharreb.

The RTA is expected to announce its plans for this year-end public transportation plan beginning this week. Watch this space for more information.
Source: Emirates 24/7