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Sun 15 Sep 2013 02:33 PM

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Serco hired to operate Dubai tram system

British company signs deal to run new transport project set to start operating next year

Serco hired to operate Dubai tram system
An artists impression of the Al Sufouh tram project

UK facilities manager Serco will operate the new Dubai Tram network under a AED105m ($28.6m) deal with the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority.

The RTA on Sunday announced the contract, which would run 75 months, or just over six years.

It included 15 months preparation for operations, which covered the recruitment and training of employees.

The project builder, Alstom-Besix consortium, will take on the maintenance of the project for 13 years, with options for an extra five years, the RTA said.

Mattar Al Tayer, RTA chairman and executive director, said Serco’s selection followed an extensive tender process that attracted world-class bids.

He said the company, which has operated Dubai’s red and green metro lines since they opened in 2009, had experience in operating and maintaining a number of metro and rail lines across Europe and in Australia.

“As per the contract, the company will provide operation services for all assets of the tram system,” he said.

This included transit services as well as organising the sale and recharge of Nol cards.

First trams are expected to arrive in Dubai in December, with the RTA saying in June it was set to commission more test runs until the official launch of the tram service in November 2014.

Al Tayer said Serco would co-ordinate with Alstom-Besix during the testing phase and when the network is fully operational. It was also in charge of “full coordination and integration between the tram, metro and various transit means”.

“The contract contains an article that provides for the commitment of Serco to transfer the workforce to the RTA, or any other entity selected by the RTA, upon the expiry of the contract,” he added.

Al Tayer said outsourcing the tram network’s operation was based on the need for an experienced operator and was also cost-efficient.

“(It) depicts RTA’s keenness to provide top quality services at lower costs… freeing the RTA to focus on its core responsibilities of drafting legislations, overseeing the implementation and enforcing compliance therewith,” he said.

“Moreover, the privatization of tram and rail operation is practicable in a number of rail systems across the globe such as London, France, Australia, Korea, and the USA among others.”

David Campbell, Serco CEO Africa, Middle East, Asia and Australia, welcomed the signing of the contract, which he described as an important step that cemented the strategic partnership between the RTA and Serco.

Eight trams will operate in the initial phase, slated for November 2014, and are expected to lift about 3,500 passengers per hour per direction.

Each tram measures 44 metres in length and has a capacity to carry about 300 passengers. They will have a First Class (Gold Suite) section and one cabin designated for women and children.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2011, but has been plagued by cash concerns in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Designed to stretch 14km along Al Sufouh Road, the tram is set to be the world’s first to run with ground power feeding the entire line, eliminating the need for overhead wires.

The first phase of the project will span 10.6km and cost AED4bn, and will see 11 of the network’s 17 stations open to the public.

On completion, the tram will link with the Dubai Metro at three stations along Sheikh Zayed Road and will also tie-up with the monorail on the Palm Jumeirah.

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