Organisers of music festival Sandance have promised to issue refunds after extraordinary traffic forced thousands of ticketholders to abandon the event, and their New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Roads on the Palm Jumeirah and feeder roads were at bottleneck from late afternoon on Tuesday as Dubai geared up to put on a world record fireworks display covering 100 kilometres.
Organisers of the annual festival, held at Atlantis Hotel on the Corniche, had been told by authorities including Palm Jumeirah master developers Nakheel that last minute traffic arrangements including buses from American University in Dubai and a dedicated bus lane on the Palm would be sufficient to carry nearly 17,000 people to the event.
All ticketholders, including those with VIP access and Palm residents, were warned they would only be able to access the venue via bus from AUD, next to Nakheel metro station.
They were told earlier this week the trip would take only 8-10 minutes.
However, the dedicated bus lane was not made available and previously announced traffic restrictions, including only allowing residential pass and Sandance ticket holders onto the development after certain times, were not enforced.
The chaotic traffic meant buses used to ferry Sandance revellers were unable to return to AUD to make additional trips.
Buses that left AUD after 8pm took three hours to travel the 9km distance to Atlantis Hotel, by which stage majority of passengers had disembarked, either to walk or giving up.
About 11pm, traffic restrictions were more heavily enforced, allowing buses an easier flow to the Atlantis. However, thousands of people had abandoned the event and passengers who had disembarked were no longer allowed pedestrian access, forcing many to experience New Year’s Eve on the road, far from their intended location and in many cases separate from loved ones.
Tara Mallon, 25, was hoping to celebrate the start to 2014 at Sandance with her two younger sisters visiting from the UK.
“The only reason we went to Sandance was so we could all be together,” Tara told Arabian Business.
“My sister’s boyfriend came from Kuwait so the four of us could be together. I think the most awful experience was when I felt I was going to faint and the bus driver wouldn’t allow me off the bus. He was allowing people to smoke on the bus but not someone sick to get off.”
A Sandance spokeswoman told Arabian Business ticketholders who did not make it to the event would be given a refund.
Organisers would announce details in the coming days.
About 30 Sandance events had been successfully held previously. Traffic is traditionally banked up along the Palm from 5pm and organisers had expected the shuttle buses to be even more efficient and were considering implementing them at future events.