Infrastructure in the Emirate is developing at a pace; in a generation, Dubai has gone from camels and dhows to boasting the busiest international airport in the world and the world’s longest metro. What next for this super city, as it prepares to build an airport capable of handling 200 million passengers a year?
A generation ago, Emiratis rode camels to travel long distances across Dubai. Today’s transport options include a metro, tram, bus and taxi services, and an upcoming canal, while future plans will see some 300 million passengers flying into and out of Dubai’s airports a year. How things have changed in just a matter of years.
The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), founded in 2005, is the backbone of the city’s infrastructure, responsible for the planning and implementation of transport requirements for the emirate.
The Dubai Taxi Corporation offers a fleet of nearly 4,000 cars working 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The Dubai Bus fleet has more than 1,500 buses offering routes covering 85% of Dubai’s urban districts via a network of 17 bus stations and 2,000 bus stops.
Launched in 2009, the Dubai Metro is a driverless, fully automated metro rail network offering two operational lines (Red and Green) with expansion plans to take the system out to Dubai World Central in time for the World Expo 2020.
Dubai also boasts various water transport modes, including traditional abras, the Dubai Ferry and water taxis, with more set to come online with the launch of the Dubai Canal in 2017.
According to the RTA, the first half of 2014 saw 262 million passengers take to public transport, compared to about 165 million passengers during the same period in 2013.
In the air, Dubai is also an indomitable force. Emirates Airline has played a central roll in the development and global growth of Dubai. Paired with Dubai Airports, the two have made Dubai a global hub for aviation.
Dubai’s newest transport option, launched in November 2014, The Dubai Tram offers services along Al Sufouh Road from Dubai Marina to the Burj Al Arab and the Mall of the Emirates, interchanging with several Dubai Metro stations, as well as connecting to the Palm Jumeirah monorail.
The first tram to be developed outside Europe powered by ground electric cables, the initial and second phases of the Dubai Tram extend 14.6 km along Al Sufouh Road. The entire tram network will span 17 stations when fully operational.
The Dubai Tram is also unique for its use of platform screen doors, which are synchronised with the opening and closing of the tram doors in order to provide additional comfort, safety and security to riders, as well as maintaining the efficiency of the air-conditioning of the stations and carriages.
The tram fleet comprises 11 trams under the initial stage, while 14 trams will be added in the second stage to bring the total to 25 trams. At its launch, the Dubai Tram had a capacity for 27,000 riders, but this will rise to 66,000 riders by 2020, when the city welcomes the World Expo.
In September 2013, the RTA contracted Serco to operate the Dubai Tram for 75 months in a deal worth AED105 million, Meanwhile the project’s construction contractor, a consortium made up of Alstom and Besix, will be responsible for tram system maintenance for a period of 13 years.
The Dubai Metro was inaugurated on September 9, 2009 at precisely 9pm. The service operates two lines and a network of 47 stations across Dubai. Reportedly the world’s largest driverless rail network, Dubai Metro has transported more than 330 million passengers since its launch.
Dubai Metro has a capacity for 13,000 passengers per hour, offering services as regularly as every three minutes during peak hours. The system currently operates with 56 trains.
With the city gearing up for Expo 2020, plans have been mooted to extend the service to 70 stations, taking the metro out to the Expo 2020 site. Expansion plans may also include services to Dubai Festival City, Dubai International City, Dubai Academic City, Ras Al Khor and Silicon Oasis. By 2020, the Dubai Metro could have a total length of 110 km.
A new tourism and leisure landmark is carving its way through the city. The Dubai Water Canal is being built at a cost of AED 1.7 billion.
Set for completion as early as 2017, the Dubai Water Canal will offer an array of water transport options in the emirate, as well as shopping, hotels, restaurants and housing along a 3 km route linking Business Bay with the Arabian Gulf.
The Dubai Water Canal Project is being built in three sections. The first comprises the construction of bridges across the Water Canal on the Sheikh Zayed Road, while the second sees the construction of bridges across the Water Canal on the Jumeirah and Al Wasl Roads. The third, and final, section will include the excavation of the 3.2 km-long canal, landfill works of the central island, constructing a sea wall around the island to prepare the sand beach, building a marina for boats and the Waterbus, and constructing three pedestrian bridges over the canal to link the Jumeirah Beach Walk with Safa Park Walk.
The RTA already has Waterbuses in operation on the Dubai Creek and the Dubai Marina.
In terms of international infrastructure, Dubai leads the world. Its Dubai International airport became the busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic last year. In 2014, Dubai International welcomed 70.5 million passengers, up 6.1% compared to 2013. However, the airport has even more ambitious plans, with 100 million passengers a year the target.
This year will see Concourse D added to Dubai International. The new facility will serve more than 100 airlines and increase the airport’s capacity to 90 million passengers a year.
Concourse D is one component of the SP2020 Masterplan for Dubai International, announced by Dubai Airports in 2011. It includes the refurbishment of Terminal 1 and the expansion of Terminal 2 to double its capacity. All works are scheduled for completion in 2015.
Dubai’s second airport, Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC), has even greater plans. Its 2050 Masterplan, unveiled in late 2014, includes an AED120 billion expansion of the facility to ultimately accommodate 200 million passengers a year, making it the biggest airport project in the world.
The first phase includes two satellite buildings with a combined capacity of 120 million passengers annually and the ability to accommodate 100 A380 aircraft at any one time. It will take between six and eight years to complete. The entire development will cover an area of 56 km2.
With passenger traffic expected to reach almost 100 million at Dubai International by the end of 2020, the further development of DWC will be a vital step towards providing the necessary facilities to accommodate passenger and cargo growth in the decades ahead and pave the way for Emirates to relocate their intercontinental hub operations to DWC by the mid-2020s.
With Dubai’s aviation sector expected to support more than 322,000 jobs and contribute 28% to Dubai’s GDP by 2020, Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, has described the new airport as a vital investment in the future of Dubai.