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Sat 19 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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Dubai Metro is the world's longest automated rail transport system. As such it will pose both unique challenges and opportunities to facilities management provider Serco. Paul Anderson, managing director, Serco Dubai Metro, and Ali Abdul Kader, director, maintenance department, Rail Agency, RTA, explained what lies ahead.

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Dubai Metro has been designed keeping in mind the variety of cultures.
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Serco Dubai Metro managing director Paul Anderson said comfort was paramount while designing the Metro.
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Attracting passengers means providing added value amenities at stations.
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As more stations are completed, more passengers will use the Metro.

Dubai Metro is the world's longest automated rail transport system. As such it will pose both unique challenges and opportunities to facilities management provider Serco. Paul Anderson, managing director, Serco Dubai Metro, and Ali Abdul Kader, director, maintenance department, Rail Agency, RTA, explained what lies ahead.

Dubai is witnessing history in the making, just as Britain did 200 years ago when Richard Trevithick invented the steam railway locomotive which, by the mid 1800s, mobilised some 30 million Britons. Fast forward to the 21st century, to a Gulf city where a public rail transport network has come to fruition. Born of vision and necessity, the impact of the metro on Dubai's populace and visitors in terms of travelling habits and mobility will help shape the emirate's socioeconomic future.

Network service

"This is the world's longest driverless automated railway system, and a first for the Middle East," said Ali Abdul Kader, director, maintenance department, Rail Agency, Rail and Transport Authority.

"It is a huge project and one that has never been attempted in the Middle East before, so of course we have faced challenges. However, we met those challenges through fact finding trips to all the major cities including Paris, London and Singapore, to speak to the experts and see how they constructed, operated and maintained their metro systems."

Bids were then put out to tender. "Bids included French transport company RATP, SPS and SMRT from Singapore and Serco Middle East," explains Al Kader. "All the bids were good, but Serco's regional experience in the aviation industry gave it the edge."

The RTA awarded Serco the operations and maintenance concession to manage both pre- and post-launch phases of both lines, thought to be worth around US $4.1 billion (AED15 billion). The global service company can count Docklands Light Railway in London, the Great Southern Railway in Australia and the Copenhagen Metro in Denmark among its transport client list.

Primary FM objective

The rail service, mixed-use stations and connecting areas and bridges will have to reflect the network's five star rating.

"Our primary task is to provide and maintain a seamless multi-modal transport service," said Paul Anderson, managing director, Serco Dubai Metro.

"That means that passengers - whether using a bus, taxi or park and ride service - will experience a five star service. If we don't provide and maintain these standards in the first instance passengers will lose confidence and not use the service - it's as simple as that.

"And you have to factor-in the extreme climate here in the Middle East, so comfort is paramount. All buses, taxis, connecting areas and footbridges will be air conditioned, and we're building new access and egress points interconnecting malls to stations to enhance the temperature controlled nature of the network." Value adds

Stations will be fully equipped with amenities such as food outlets, ATMs, dry cleaning services and retail space.

"We need footfall, so to attract passengers we are providing value added services at stations," said Anderson. "Commuters will be able to incorporate their daily routines such as laundry, cash withdrawals and bill payments, shopping and the like, into their daily travel schedule.

"This not only makes the network commercially viable, which of course it has to be, but we're also making travel on the metro an attractive proposition for people who are used to doing the above from the comfort of their cars."

Mobility patterns

Anderson highlighted the affect the metro will have on mobility patterns in Dubai. "Undoubtedly the network will change the way people live their lives. Trips that were previously repressed due to time and cost restraints will now open up - we believe 40% of all trips will be ‘new trips'. In doing so the network will deliver liveability and productivity will also rise. People will no longer miss meetings due to traffic and they'll arrive at work in a positive state of mind, as journey times fall.

"The purpose of the metro is to give people options, to complement the services already available, to create a travel network. As public confidence grows in the abilities of the integrated system we'll see a more European model emerge, whereby people either drive to the station and commute or use taxis and buses to do the same. The environmental implications will also become more tangible as pollution levels drop and quality of air improves."

Employment

On the Red Line alone 1500 staff are needed - from technical engineers to cleaners. A 30% Emiratisation staffing policy is in place to aid development of capabilities for future needs in the country.

"We are looking to place Emiratis in key areas - we want a strong local presence in our organisation and we are recruiting from school leaver level to graduates. Serco has partnered with the best universities, colleges and schools in Dubai to build a sustainable pipeline for locals," said Anderson.

"The metro has five different training and development schemes charting a career path for engineers. Furthermore, through attachments around the world we have been able to introduce disciplines new to the UAE, which is exciting and shows are commitment to the future. And the policy is working.

Unified ticketing systemBeing hailed as five star service, it gives rise to the question of affordability. "We are rolling out a unified multi-modal ticketing system that passengers can use on buses and at metro stations. Pricing will operate on a distance-based zonal model," Anderson explained.

"To my mind the infrastructure modernity is unparalleled. The stations have been designed to give quality space with a lot of void areas and high quality fixtures, fittings and finishes. The challenge will be to keep them clean at certain times of the year when it's very dusty and humid."

In a climate when at certain times of the year it's near impossible to go outside for any length of time, temperature control at stations and connecting areas is crucial. "Yes, the climate is a challenge," said Al Kader, especially keeping the underground sections of the network cool. Heavy investment in the latest HVAC technology will ensure a consistent and comfortable environment."

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