First passengers carried as Dubai tram rolls out

Banners with the words “Dubai Tram at your service starting from 12/12/2014” at Mina Seyahi and Media City stations greeted the first riders to take advantage of the city’s latest transport system.

Early morning commuters had started arriving just after 6am at Jumeirah Beach Residence Station 1 – but had to wait almost an hour for the first cars to roll into the platform.

Weekdays will see the service run from 6.30am with the first tram reaching the Marina and JBR areas around 20 minutes later.

“I’ve been looking forward to riding the rails,” said Eileen Phillips, a teaching assistant. “I don’t mind the wait – there is always going to be a few problems in the early stages.”

All stations saw a police presence – largely aimed at ensuring safety.

At the JBR 1 stop officers joked with waiting passengers – but also carefully explained their role.

“It’s going to be some time before people get used to the network,” said one policeman. “So we are here to make sure no accidents occur. As far as I know there has already been one incident – a motorist ran a red light and hit the tram. There is a big fine for that.

“We are here to ensure the safety of motorists, pedestrians, passengers and the tram itself.”

The arrival of the tram at JBR – complete with traditional clanging bell – was greeted with cheers.

“I’ve been looking forward to riding,” said tourist Brian Horton from New Zealand. “I’ve been in Dubai a week and I’ve heard nothing but the tram on the radio and television. I’m a great supporter of sustainable transport so such interest in a public service network is great to see. I always associated Dubai with flash cars – so maybe things are changing.”

Engineer Miguel Rogel was another passenger on the first service to travel through the JBR and Dubai Marina areas.

“I shall be using it every day to get to and from work,” he said. “I used to walk – it took about 15 minutes and when the weather is like it is now it was okay – quite pleasant, really. But in summer it’s too hot for such a walk and that’s when I think I will really see the benefit. But, for me, it cuts a 30 minute daily journey down to less than 10 so I am all in favour.”

However passengers heading for Media City just before 8am were told their tram had developed a fault and would not be moving. Some got out and walked to their offices, while othere elected to remain on board while repairs were carried out.

Taxi drivers who regularly ferry commuters to their offices from the area were split in their opinions. Some welcomed the fact that the tram would mean fewer cars on the roads – but others were worried at potential loss of fares.

“But there is one thing I am hoping,” said one driver. “That is – I will have fewer short journeys of 10dirhams which involve waiting at lights for a long time and more longer distance passengers.”

The previous day the formal inauguration of the service was greeted with spotlights, fireworks and red carpets rolled out at several of the 11 stations along the 10.6km route.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, launched the service and was the first passenger.