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Tue 13 Jan 2015 12:38 PM

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Whatever happened to the Palm Monorail?

Time for a re-think of the $400m project, says Anil Bhoyrul

Whatever happened to the Palm Monorail?

Sometimes, things just don’t work out as planned. But they don’t usually cost $400 million. Can anyone tell me whatever happened to the Palm Monorail? Does anyone know anyone who has actually ever been on it?

This 5.45km stretch of the Middle East’s first ever monorail opened on April 30, 2009, and was widely lauded as this fabulous way of connecting the Palm Jumeriah to the mainland. There were going to be 4 stations – Atlantis Aquaventure, Trump Plaza, Trump Tower and Gateway. It could carry 40,000 passengers a day with trains running every few minutes during peak hours – and of course connecting with the Dubai Metro.

So nearly eight years since the grand opening, what state is it in today? The Trump Tower station doesn’t exist because the tower was scrapped. It has been renamed Al Ittihad Park – but that station is not open. Trump Plaza has been renamed Palm Mall, except the mall hasn’t been built – so no station.  In other words, you can only go from Atlantis at one end to Gateway at the other end. This will cost you AED15 ($4) one way, AED25 return. More expensive than a cab.

Not surprisingly, there have not been many takers. The trains are running almost empty, bar a few tourists. Only one or two trains operate, reportedly only every 23 minutes.

I don’t want to sound too negative about a project that is technically brilliant, but let’s be honest, this isn’t exactly a success is it?

Surely it’s time for some urgent re-thinking. Such as knocking the whole thing down (given what there still must be a high running and maintenance cost) and building a cable car from one end of the Palm to the other. And charging AED1 a ride.

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Jaap Ketel 5 years ago

The Palm Monorail when build 6 years ago was the most advanced monorail system in the world. The fact that it was not extended to join the Dubai Metro system was a great mistake. This mistake can still be corrected today. If this is done ridership will jump to manyfold of what it is today. Another way of increasing use of the monorail block all private vehicles of non-residents from the Palm access road or alternatively charge a hefty ticket price to go to Aquaventure and the Atlantis Hotel.
Let's wait and see how the system will grow in the future. Visionary people have patience. Most journalists not.

Simon Bird 5 years ago

"The Palm Monorail when build 6 years ago was the most advanced monorail system in the world."

Pray do tell - in what way was it advanced? Even when it was first built it was a fairly primitive and infrequent transport system to get from the station at Jumeirah to Atlantis. Compare it to more comprehensive monorail/above ground metro systems in Bangkok, KL, etc, and it looks even more primitive.

Please explains this 'vision' that so amazes you.

Marian 5 years ago

Judging by the number of visitors I have to my Palm Monorail website I would say that there are a lot of people who want to use the Palm Monorail, even if just for a tourist trip. However, I would recommend that the following be done:
- sell/give it to the RTA and integrate it to the Dubai public transport system including use of Nol cards.
- following from above scrap the hefty ticket price and include in the RTA zones
- integrate with the Metro (although this has partially been done now that the Tram is linked)
- open the other two stations

Sam T 5 years ago

I suspect when that Mall is built the Monorail will see a boost in numbers. But, I agree, it's not exactly a thriving success at the moment. I live right next to it and I've never seen it full. It doesn't help that the Gateway is right next to a busy road with no clear way in or out (until the recent footbridge to the tram was connected to it).

Mona 5 years ago

The editor needs to do homework correctly before writing articles for nakheel or palm-bashing....

i am a resident of Palm Jumeirah where i have a daily view of the monorails passing every 15 minutes a few meters away as i live on the 1st floor.

There is good level of traffic on the monorail both ways. a few hours of the afternoon sometimes it is so full that it feels like the monorail might burst.

John 5 years ago

Am I surprise yet another flop is owned/managed/started by Nakheel!

I dont want to sound negative, but given the company's track record, why do people expect any better!

David 5 years ago

Marian has got it right - nothing wrong with the Monorail, just needs to open the stations (although not the one where the mall will be - people would fall to their deaths!).

Itchykoo Park Station could open though.

Then all it needs is to reduce the price so it is worth getting in it and not a taxi. There is a sizable catchment area that would jump in if it made any financial sense to do so.

That said, about 8% of the time the trains look quite busy - and maybe the 4$ is more lucrative, than reducing it to 1 AED and having 4 times the number of passengers... I am sure Nakheel have run the numbers (they are getting quite good at counting their pennies).

One last point - even if they have done so, and profit is their God (as it is for all private companies so you cannot balme them), it would be sort of a shame to build something like this, and then only make it relevant to tourists.

Marion 5 years ago

I have never understood why the park station has never been opened either , especially now that the monorail is linked to the tram system ....also the big bus tour company now stops at the park so even more visitors wanting to use the tram.