Ten years ago today, thousands swarmed Shaikh Zayed Road hoping to capture the historic moment in their cameras for posterity.
At exactly 9 minutes and 9 seconds past 9pm on 09.09.09, history was made. As fireworks lit up the night sky, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, swiped his own Nol card and ceremoniously inaugurated the Dubai Metro, marking a new chapter in the city’s enviable growth story.
It took less than five years to come up with a solution to Dubai’s transport problems. Yet the final result was an engineering feat that remains unparalleled till date.
The ball was set rolling on May 29, 2005 when Dubai Municipality inked a deal with Dubai Rapid Link, a group of companies led by Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan.
Shortly afterwards, Al Bugeisha — a monster 60-tonne tunnel-boring machine named after a desert rodent — started drilling through hard rocks, sand layers and almost anything in between to lay the foundation for underground rail tracks.
By September 2008, a staggering 24,000 engineers, technicians and workers besides 105 subcontractors had toiled day and night in the construction of the Dh28 billion public railway system that would forever change the way people commute in Dubai.
The first section of the Red Line, covering 10 stations was opened to public at 6am on September 10.
PROVING NAYSAYERS WRONG
Any doubts about the feasibility of a rapid transit system in a car-obsessed city were quickly laid to rest when the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) released ridership figures of the first two days. It showed that more than 110,000 people or nearly 10 per cent of Dubai’s population had used the Metro within 48 hours of its operations.
Exactly two years after the launch of the Red Line, Shaikh Mohammad inaugurated the Green Line, which added 18 stations and 23 kilometres to Dubai’s existing rail network, providing affordable transport to people living in the older areas such as Deira and Bur Dubai.
It was another gratifying moment for RTA’s director-general Mattar Al Tayer. “Congratulations to all the inhabitants of Dubai — everyone ought to be proud,” he said on the sidelines of the launch.
By the time it had turned five, nearly half a billion people had travelled by the Dubai Metro.
INTRINSIC PART OF LIFE
Maintaining the same spirit of public service, Dubai Metro has now become an intrinsic part of the life residents and visitors alike. Today, the Metro has 49 stations, ferrying more than 1.6 million passengers daily — up from 60,000 in 2009 and about 500,000 in 2014.
From nurses and nannies to senior management across offices, hospitals, restaurants and stores, passengers swear by the Dubai Metro.
TICKING ALL THE RIGHT BOXES
“Extensive connectivity, unfailing punctuality and huge savings in terms of cost and travel time, it ticks all the right boxes,” says regular commuter Angel Ramons from Phillipines.
“Getting around Dubai was expensive when I came to the city looking for a job in September 2009,” recalls 38-year-old Mohammad Zahur. “In Metro I found a saviour. In fact, I owe my job to Dubai Metro,” says the Egyptian expat who works for an insurance firm and still uses the Metro from Rashidiya to commute to his office in Al Barsha.
Ninety-seven-year-old Kenyan expat Tehemten Homi Dhunjiboy Mehta who has been using the train almost daily for the past 10 years describes it as a lifeline.
“I can’t possibly imagine life without Dubai Metro. I got my UAE driving license renewed last year but have no plans to drive as yet. I prefer the Metro. It’s blessing,” he says
Mehta will be happy to know that by his 98th birthday in May 2020 the existing Dubai Metro Red Line would be extended by 15 kilometres with seven new stations as part of the Route 2020 project.
Among the new stations will be the iconic Expo Station which will welcome millions of commuters as the main transport link to the Expo 2020 site, located near Al Maktoum International Airport.
The gold-rimmed wings of the station’s canopy, which resemble the wings of a plane, are meant to emulate innovation and advancement — a fitting tribute to the indomitable spirit and vision of Dubai.