Abu Dhabi
The new vehicles will help establish more bus routes in residential areas, while also contributing to the growing bus service network. Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Public bus services in Abu Dhabi are set for a major overhaul with the addition of 327 new buses to the fleet, transport officials said on Tuesday.

In the first phase, 40 new minivans will be introduced by the Integrated Transport Centre (ITC) – the emirate’s transport regulator – to serve neighbourhoods from October 11 onwards.

By the end of 2020, Dh473 million will be used to expand the existing fleet in a bid to make public transport more convenient for residents and visitors.

Demand for bus services

Today’s announcement about public bus service enhancements came on the heels of an announcement last month regarding the introduction of road tolls in the capital from October 15 onwards. While those using private vehicles will have to pay road tolls when crossing any of the four bridges connecting Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland, bus commuters will remain exempt from having to pay them. This could make public buses an attractive commuting option.

“The new buses supports ITC’s plan to enhance the public transport service network just before the implementation of the toll gate system in Abu Dhabi. We will increase the number of daily services offered; 147 bus trips will be added to the bus network on the main bridges connecting Abu Dhabi Island,” said Ateeq Al Mazrouei, operations director for public transport at the ITC.

“Of these additional bus trips, 124 will be added during peak hours. More convenient public transport options could help reduce the number of private vehicles entering Abu Dhabi City and reduce traffic congestion,” he added.

Convenient new buses and shelters

The official told Gulf News on the sidelines of a press conference that there are currently 304 buses serving the capital, travelling on 77 different routes. More routes will be added as soon as the 40 new buses – 17-seater Mercedes Benz Sprinter vans – join the fleet in October.

The buses will be able to accommodate up to 17 passengers, including those with special needs. They also come equipped with top-up machines, a lift system for wheelchairs, and USB charging portals for mobile devices.

In Al Ain, 20 similar public buses will be introduced. The ITC currently operates 22 bus routes in Al Ain.

In order to make buses more attractive for commuters, the ITC is also planning to set up 250 more air-conditioned bus shelters across the emirate over the next two years. There are currently 235 such shelters, Al Mazrouei said.

Bus fares

“Despite these many upgrades, there are no plans to change bus fares. In fact, we are planning to implement a system so that passengers who need to take more than one bus to their destination do not have to pay the Dh2 bus boarding fee twice, as long as they board the second bus within an hour of alighting from the first,” the official added.

At present, bus fares remain very affordable, with trips within the city charged at Dh2 only, and trips to the suburbs charged at Dh2, plus 0.5 fils for every kilometer. So a trip from the capital city to Mussaffah costs only about Dh6.

Buses are environmentally-friendly

The ITC is also planning to install emission filters in all existing buses. For the newest buses, emissions will be as low as 0.003 grams per kilowatt-Hour, a standard known as Euro 6.

“Opting for public transport helps to reduce congestion, and it is also much better for the environment,” Al Mazrouei said.

Public bus services in Abu Dhabi

141 routes in the emirate: 73 in Abu Dhabi, 22 in Al Ain and 30 in Al Gharbia

304 buses serving Abu Dhabi city

235 bus shelters

327 new buses to be added by 2020

250 new bus shelters to be set up over next two years

Bus fares

Hafilat top-up can be purchased from Lulu stores. Top-up machines are also available at malls, hospitals, near bus shelters and within the new buses

Dh2 per trip for trips within the city

Dh2 plus 0.5 fils per kilometer for regional trips, such as from Abu Dhabi city to Mussaffah

Free trips in the city and regionally for those with special needs and residents aged 55 years and older; Dh5 to purchase updated Hafilat card every year. Intercity trips discounted by 50%.

Dh500 payment per year for students, after which all trips during the year within the city and regionally are free. 50% discount also available for intercity trips.