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Thu 10 Sep 2009 06:06 AM

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Our City, Our Metro

Anil Bhoyrul suggests the opening of the Dubai Metro will prove a turning point in the emirate’s economy.

As Dubai launches go, it was low key. No Hollywood celebrities. No rock concert. Even the fireworks went unnoticed.

But as one of the Dubai government officials told me last night: “We don’t need to hype this. You just need to get on the train.”

He was right. In fact, that’s pretty much all His Highness Sheikh Mohammed did. After strolling through Mall of the Emirates and watching a video, he bought the first ever Dubai Metro ticket and then boarded the first ever passenger train, bang on time at

Simple, but spectacular. Make no mistake, last night is proof that Dubai is back on the big stage. Have you been on the Metro? You really should go. Okay, we can argue forever about the number of stations not ready, car parking facilities, train timings and long term revenue forecasts.

Forget all that. Just get on the train now. Most of you reading this will have used some form of a metro elsewhere in the world. New York, Paris, London, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur…they all claim to have world class systems.

Not anymore. Dubai has beaten them hands down. For design, comfort, and luxury – you name the criteria, Dubai has outdone everyone.

And in record time. Just 49 months. Six years ago when I came to Dubai, there wasn’t a single Metro hole in the ground. Nobody had even heard the words “Dubai Metro.” Now it is reality.

The RTA suggests that by 2020, 1.8 million people a day will use the Metro. Judging by this morning, I believe those figures are correct, because overnight, in an instance, the entire travelling culture of the emirate has been transformed.

I saw suits with brief cases and Blackberrys waiting patiently to board their train on the way to work. Tourists heading to hotels, even mothers taking their children to school.

It is very early days – actually it’s just four hours since the Metro was open to paying passengers. Our travelling habits have been changed forever. Forget the glitches, of which there will be many in the coming days, because the job has been done. Was it worth $7.2 billion? Yes.

Last night was also the best possible message to the rest of the world, particularly the foreign media that has been busy writing Dubai’s history. Now it must write the future again, as the Metro puts Dubai high in the league of mega-cities. There was no summer panic, no mass exodus, no second crash.

Last year on September 15, the world’s economies changed forever. That was the day a 158 year old bank called Lehman Brothers became the largest bankruptcy in US history. Yesterday, nearly exactly one year later, will in time be seen as the turning point for Dubai.

There is an unmistakable buzz in the emirate, hope is rising and confidence is back. Dubai is back.

A few years ago, HH Sheikh Mohammed was asked by CBS news why he was pushing to complete his vision for the future so fast. “Because I want it now,” he replied.

Yesterday he got it.

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Ali 11 years ago

"Last night was also the best possible message to the rest of the world, particularly the foreign media that has been busy writing Dubai’s history. Now it must write the future again..." How has the launched of a Metro system changed any of the things that the foreign media have recently been writing about Dubai? Has the metro given construction workers a fair deal or cleaned up their labour camps? As I recall they have to work though midday in Ramadan to get this Metro finished. Has it given us a free press, free from Government censorship? These are the things the outside media were writing about. Let's see if you print this message or is this 'article' just more Dubai PR from Dubai journalists?

ACE 11 years ago

Ali its sad that the spirit of the article hasn't converted you. If ever there was a time to be optimistic about Dubai's future its now. Given that the Metro puts it at par with many global cities in terms of infrastructure. Think of this, if you were the boss of an MNC setting up base in Arabia, for its lucrative market, which city will come to your mind when you think of ease of employee travel and general infrastructure? The metro will definitely rub off on Dubai in a positive manner. Problems exist, but who do you think built the UK underground or the Empire State Building. It was all slave labour. Slaves who were lucky if they weren't lynched. Unfortunately this is the cost of progress and its hypocritical of the west to ignore its history as they revel in the comfort of their modern economies built on the toil of slave labour. Free press- unfortunately that ain't happening any time soon... But still let's acknowledge that Shaik Mohd. is a true visionary and he has ensured that we live in one of the most future ready states in the World. Mabrook!

abdul haque 11 years ago

It is a eye catching development of Dubai to have Metro like other cities of the world ( ) But I am upset to note that thaere is no prayer facility at the station they mentioned that due to shortage of space ( ) They have space for Retail outlets and kiosks such as coffee shops and Boutiques, places to eat and drinks but not for the prayer( ) Dubai is of course cosmopolitan city but keep in mind this is Arab country where the religion comes first ( ) I would request the RTA to close one of the outlets and reserve one place for prayer room ( ) Abdul Haque

Abu Ali 11 years ago

2nd that buddy there should be prayer rooms in every metro station

Roger Hopkins 11 years ago

Well said Anil. Say what you like about all the problems - the Metro is finally a reality and it is here to stay. Habits will take a long time to change, particularly the love affair with the a car. But slowly people will get used to walking or catching a bus to their nearest station. And more and more frustrated with the limited parking options around the city and the cost of parking. But the habits WILL change. In 5 or 6 years time it will be hard to imagine what the city was like without the Metro. The only thing that I would like the RTA to address is the opening hours. Staying open later and opening earlier on a Friday would make it far more useful.

M. Goheer 11 years ago

Well done, Mohammad, You have brought in a new sense of pride for all Arabs. It will bring in a psychological change in the people of the region. Move fast and grow fast, time is money. Mabrook.

rizwan 11 years ago

its useless cause many uae national perfer using there cars rather then RTA transport .i personal never so an Emirati national riding the bus .lol beside i heared today only one person was using seeing in the metro today .they should have connected all the emirates not just one .many people are leaving from dubai so thats a big issue .

Raj 11 years ago

What was the budget of My City My Metro? I heard in millions! Why spend so much - it was to create a hype.

Santos Dumont 11 years ago

Anil, Dubai metro will, undoubtedly, bring success to the city and the country and will encourage other emirates and countries in the region to follow suit. But your article was just a "show-up" and it gave the impression that you are looking for an attention. I would like to see articles that tacle technical, economical, and social issues of a project like this in a professional way with supporting figures and statistics, without being "biased".

Herman 11 years ago

"Just get on the train now..." yeah, tried to. Tried to get on it yesterday (Thursday), and it wasn't working, and then tried again tonight (Friday) and it wasn;t working. Fair enough, bound to be teething problems. But they need to sortit out swiftly. Public transport needs to be reliable if it is to be a viable alternative. People won't build it into their lives they can't trust that its going to work.