Mixed fortunes for first passengers

UPDATE 2: Passengers miss first train as ticket machine breaks, but others impressed with Dubai Metro service.
FIRST RIDE: Passengers wave to an oncoming train on the first day Dubai Metro opens to the public. (ITP Images)
By Alex Delmar-Morgan
Thu 10 Sep 2009 06:10 AM

Attempts by fee paying passengers to ride the first Dubai Metro train on Thursday were scuppered when the ticket machine broke down at Mall of the Emirates station.

A group of four passengers, all interior designers, said they were "annoyed" at missing the first train because of problems with the station's ticket machine.

Sian Whitmore, from Dubai, said: "It's very annoying considering we got up at 5am. We wanted to ride the first train, but we missed it."

She added that the Metro would be a "big plus for Dubai" and that it would help ease the city's traffic problems.

Other passengers reported difficulties with buying tickets too.

Altaf Shaikh, 29, a financial consultatnt who works in DIFC, said that although he enjoyed his first journey he found purchasing a ticket "confusing".

"It was a little confusing buying a ticket. The staff were pleasant but it was their first day so they were a little confused," said Shaikh, who began his journey at Union station.

Meanwhile, other passengers making their first journey on the Metro had a better experience.

Ronald Williams, a 28-year-old graphic designer from Pakistan, who travelled to work from Deira City Centre to Financial Centre station in Downtown Dubai, was impressed by the service.

"It was a lovely experience. Dubai has done a good job," he said. "I wasn't expecting so many people on the first morning. The trains are spacious and you can use wi-fi," he added.

Williams said the Metro would save him "a lot" of money commuting to work everyday now he does not have to take taxis.

The $7.6bn transport system was officially opened on Wednesday by Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, but commuters were made to wait until Thursday to use the service, which has opened on schedule but over budget.

Labourers and engineers have been working around the clock to ensure the project was completed on time.

However, only ten stations have opened out of 29. The rest are due to be completed by February next year.

While the project has taken four years to build, it has risen in costs by an estimated 75 percent.

This week the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said that costs will overrun to around $7.6bn.

With nearly 75 km of magnetic track, it is the largest automated driverless train system in the world.

The Red Line, which opened on Thursday is 52.1km, and the Green Line, 17.6km in length, is currently under construction and due for completion in a year.

On the Red Line there will be 24 elevated stations, four underground, and one at street level.

Up to 11,000 passengers are expected to use the Metro in peak times every hour, with nearly 75,000 predicted to travel daily on the service.

Carriages are divided into three classes: Golden (VIP), Women and Children and Silver (economy).

They have air conditioning and wi-fi access.

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