Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 20:41 pm (KSA) 17:41 pm (GMT)

Dubai launches the GCC's first metro on 9/9/9

Dubai's metro will offer luxurious Gold Class seats as well as female-only carriages
Dubai's metro will offer luxurious Gold Class seats as well as female-only carriages

The glittering emirate of Dubai opened the Arabian Peninsula's first metro system and the world's longest driverless train system on Wednesday in a bid to ease traffic on the notoriously congested roads of the United Arab Emirates' busiest city.

After almost four years of construction, the metro was timed to launch on Sept. 9, 2009 at 9.09 p.m. as Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum became the metro's first passenger.

 I don’t think it is practical, how can I leave the metro station and walk to my office in this heat 
Ahmad Abdullah -- Dubai resident

The emirate unveiled its latest project at an opening ceremony for VIP guests while commuters would have to wait until Thursday to take a ride on the landmark train.

Like the Arab world's only other metro in the Egyptian capital Cairo, Dubai's metro offers female only carriages and a "gold class" section with luxury leather seats, which will cost 13 dirhams ($3.55) more than double the 1.8 dirhams (50 cents) for the regular class.

Some 200 million passengers are expected annually but construction work will continue at many of the incomplete stations and the rest of the 52 kilometers (32 miles) of the Red Line is set to be complete by Feb. 2010, according to the Roads and Transport Authority.

A Green Line is scheduled to enter service in summer 2010.

The metro's operating system is operated by Serco Group, a British contractor that is also responsible for operating rail networks and prisons in the U.K. and Australia.

Serco also provides computer support to the U.S. military and manages Britain's nuclear arsenal.

Hoping on the train

 I am excited for the city of Dubai but I don’t think it will benefit me that much 
Renade Al-Khawaja -- Sharjah resident

But despite the city's best efforts to reduce congestion on its notoriously busy roads, it remains to be seen whether motorists will leave their cars at home to hop on the fancy air-conditioned blue trains.

Although stations and connecting walkways will also be temperature-controlled and have internet access, braving the scorching desert heat to get from the station to one's final destination does not seem like something most residents are willing to put up with.

"I don’t think it is practical, how can I leave the metro station and walk to my office in this heat," Ahmad Abdullah told Al Arabiya, referring to the summer temperatures of 45 degrees Celcius (113 degrees Fahrenheit)

"I wouldn’t mind it in winter though, I think it might actually be quite nice when the weather gets better," the 29-year-old marketing manager said.

For those that live in the neighboring emirate of Sharjah, which houses most of Dubai's work force, the commute is not likely to get any better with the metro system as they will still have to drive roughly 10 kilometers (approximately 6 miles) to get to the nearest train station.

"I am excited for the city of Dubai but I don’t think it will benefit me that much," Renade Al-Khawaja, who lives in Sharjah and works in Dubai, told Al Arabiya.

"The closest station is in Dubai and by the time I get from my house in Sharjah to the nearest train station I would have gotten through most of the traffic anyway so there is no point," the 27-year-old property consultant said.

Khawaja said she would give the metro a try but said it was very unlikely that she would make it her regular means of transport.

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