How successful has the rollout of the Dubai Metro been? How has the metro impacted the flow of traffic in Dubai?
AL TAYER: The metro has actually added a great deal to Dubai’s infrastructure. Trip time delay has been reduced from 15 minutes to 5.5 minutes per trip. Since we built the metro on 9/9/2009, we have reached a figure of 100m passengers that have taken this transport mode, which actually consists of about 30% of the total of what we carry through Dubai’s transportation system. Normally we carry about 1m passengers through the transport system in Dubai everyday, so this means about 300,000 passengers per day take the metro. The rest of course take the other modes of transport. In addition, I think it is important for any commercial city to have a transportation system that is easily connected to the airport. In Dubai, most of the government departments, the ministries, and the commercial CBD are linked within a ring of 15 minutes to the airport. To make this clear, you can travel from the CBD of Dubai to Dubai International Airport within 15 minutes. That is very important for any commercial city. Within that range of time, you can also reach most of the important government departments, ministries, and important hotels. The airport is the heart of infrastructure in any city and it is important that you have smooth transport to and from the airport. In Dubai, when we planned the infrastructure for the roads and transportation systems, we have put this as one of the important strategic goals that we have to achieve. We actually achieved this quite easily. When you add a system like a metro to a city like Dubai you are actually protecting the environment. The system relies on electricity and this produces no CO2, disruptive sounds, or any other environmental problems. The metro has also added to land value in Dubai. Most of the land around the metro stations has increased around 30% in value. It is known worldwide that the value of land around metro stations increases from 5% to 45%. Here, the figure that we have from the Land Department is that the average increase in Dubai for land around metro stations is about 30%. In addition, if you want to host any international events, sporting events, international conferences, the first question people ask is do you have a good transportation system. If you do not have a good transportation system, they will not allow you to host the event. So it is important and it is adding an incredible amount to the economy. If you want to have a strong economy you have to have strong infrastructure.
What metro expansion works are currently underway? What is the status of tram networks and pedestrian crossings that will allow for seamless travel using Dubai’s public transportation system? How will these systems link into the metro stations?
AL TAYER: The infrastructure in Dubai is almost complete. I would say that 90% of the infrastructure for the transportation system is complete. What we are doing now is completing some of the projects such as the tram in the Al Sufouh area. We have divided this project into more than one phase. Phase 1 is under construction and 30% of the project is finished. The entire project will be completed by November 2014 and is about 10km with 12 stations. It will be linked with the Red Line with two stations. One is very close to Emirates Mall and the other is 4km-5km away from Emirates Mall. In addition, this project will also serve the whole of Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR) and it will provide a permanent solution to the traffic congestion there. In addition, we are also studying the Green Line. We may extend the Green Line to International City. It is very important now that that area is getting developed very quickly. So we are thinking of expanding the Green Line in that area. Additionally, we are completing some of the prestigious road projects. We have the parallel road to Sheikh Zayed. Another prestigious project is Al Khail Road, which is at a great junction. All of the roundabouts on that road will be converted to interchanges and elevated intersections. There are also other road projects. One of the important things we are looking at now is to run the transportation system efficiently. So we are concentrating on training and making sure the local staff can run the metro, busses, and other modes of transportation. So we need a lot of work on training on running all of our transportation systems efficiently. We have already contracted with an international company to train our staff and run our systems efficiently.
How is the economic slowdown impacting the RTA’s projects and initiatives?
AL TAYER: In the RTA, we did not cancel any projects. We did two things: we redefined our priorities and changed our plans; and we rescheduled some of the projects. Things that were supposed to be finished in 2 years were extended to 3 and things that were supposed to be finished in 3 years were extended to 4 for example. So we never canceled any projects because of the slowdown of economy. You can tell from the old announcements we made, we are a committed organization. Any project that we announced, you can see on site that it is being completed. Some of the projects have been delayed and rescheduled. I think we are one of the organizations that was not affected by the financial crisis or the slowdown of the economy because we have implemented most of our projects. As I said, 90% has been implemented. The rest have been redefined and rescheduled.
How likely is a rail project linking Dubai and Abu Dhabi? What kind of investment would this initiative require?
AL TAYER: For Etihad Rail, I am the Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the Executive Committee. This is a federal project and it is run by a federal company called Etihad Rail. This project is around 1,200km. We started phase one in Ruwais and it is under construction now as announced by the company. We are planning to finish Phase 1 mid 2013. Other phases we are planning to finish, we are still in the design phase, and we are planning to divide this project into phases because it is a very big project; an AED 40bn ($11bn) project. It is all being planned now and I personally believe it will take until 2017 to finish all of these projects so that it can be linked with the GCC rail network.
What methods of revenue generation is the RTA exploring (i.e. monetization of Salik)? What projects will these funds be used for?
AL TAYER: Our revenue in RTA is almost AED 3.5bn ($1bn) per year. This comes from the tariff for transportation, parking, advertisement, Salik, and others. We are trying to break even in the near future. We wanted to break even in the coming two years so that we can cover our expenditure. Most of the money we make we invest in the infrastructure and to improve the network. As you know the infrastructure in Dubai is superior and it needs a lot of funding. Our government, since the RTA has been established, has almost spent AED 65bn ($17.7bn) on infrastructure. The government will continue funding the RTA because roads are never finished and development will never be stopped in Dubai. There will always be projects and there will always be development. Dubai is a very commercially active city. It is the hub of business in Asia. If we want to compete with other cities we have to keep improving our system and we have to continue competing with other cities like Singapore, Hong Kong and other cities that compete with us for hosting conferences or any international events. Like Emirates is doing and like Dubai International Airport is doing, Dubai is competing in infrastructure not for the sake of competition, but for the sake of improving business and economy. Nowadays everyone is working very hard to improve infrastructure and improve the services they are providing to the public and to international companies. To attract companies, you need to invest. Investing in infrastructure is the steering force for revolving the economy. If you do not spend money on infrastructure, your economy will of course be affected. That is why one of Dubai’s strategic plans is to spend on infrastructure so that the economy will be revolved and will continue to be alive. Dubai is an lively city and will continue investing.
In the RTA, we did not cancel any projects. We did two things: we redefined our priorities and changed our plans; and we rescheduled some of the projects. Things that were supposed to be finished in 2 years were extended to 3 and things that were supposed to be finished in 3 years were extended to 4 for example. So we never canceled any projects because of the slowdown of economy.
Where is the RTA looking to further develop green transportation practices and improved energy efficiency?
AL TAYER: For green transport in Dubai, we actually established a department in the RTA and offices in each agency to look after quality, health and safety. We actually have more than one program that focuses on these initiatives. For example we use the best systems, which are Euro 4 and Euro 5 diesel and we use the abras in the creek. In addition, we have hybrid taxis. So we try to touch every mode of transportation within Dubai in order to help have a green environment and to help reduce CO2 emissions. I think this will continue, it is not a project that is linked with time, you have to keep on working on this and technology changes everyday. We have to look at the hybrids because they could present a problem. Here we have different temperatures and different environments, it is not like any other city. We started 4 or 5 years ago with different taxi companies in order to come up with a system that is economic and good for the environment. We are still working on this experiment, we have thousands of taxis working in Dubai, and if we can compare this with our hybrid study it will be good. These are our green activities.
Has road safety improved since the expansion of radar detection? How much revenue is derived from traffic fines?
AL TAYER: For road safety, Dubai Police and us have tremendous efforts in order to reduce the number of fatal accidents per 100,000. It used to be more than 21 for every 100,000. Now it is reduced to 7 per 100,000 within the last 6 years. We have done a lot to reduce this. We have built many additional bridges and traffic signals, and awareness programs regarding safety and speed limits. So we have worked on joint efforts with the police to get this figure down to a minimal acceptable standard. In the UK, Switzerland, and Australia, I think it is 4 deaths per 100,000, so we want to reach that European figure. We are actually aiming to have zero accidents, but this is impossible, but we are trying our best not to lose anybody driving on the road.