The Dubai Creekwith abras or water taxis jostling for space at the creekside, awaiting passengers. The fare of Dh1 per trip is affordable for all. Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: In a major overhaul of the marine transportation in Dubai, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has launched several new routes, even as more abras, waterbuses and ferries are to set sail soon, Gulf News has learnt.

Six new routes have been launched on abras, waterbuses and ferries, while several new routes are set to open next month.

In addition, existing routes have been realigned to improve the efficiency and frequency of the trips has been reduced to offer more convenience to commuters.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Baha Al Qedra, RTA’s Director of Marine Transportation, outlined the expansion plans on the creek and across the Dubai shores.

“Marine transport is the oldest means of mass transit in Dubai. People used abras to cross the creek for centuries and we are building on that tradition, which is convenient, affordable and quick,” said Al Qedra as he highlighted the significance of marine transport in Dubai.

One of the oldest mode of transport, abras continue to be one of the most popular, with around 10,000 people using the diesel-powered boats to cross the Dubai Creek every day.

To improve the efficiency of the boats, RTA has introduced electric abras that have been plying at Madinat Jumeirah and Global Village for the last couple of years.

The non-polluting abras have now been introduced at the Burj Khalifa waterfront, taking visitors around the majestic fountains.

“The 30-minute trip will cost Dh65 per person, offering visitors a view of the fountains with the Burj Khalifa as the backbrop. It will be an experience one would love to have,” added Al Qedra.

The hourly trips will be open from 4pm-10pm daily.

Encouraged by the efficiency of the electric abra, RTA is now planning to introduce it on the creek, though it won’t replace the conventional abras.

“I have proposed a tourist route for electric abras in the creek, the planned route will be between Al Fahidi station, Gold Souq and Shindagha. Once approved, we will start the trips in April,” said Al Qedra

Apart from abras, several waterbus routes have been launched, while more routes are in the pipeline.

Waterbuses now run between Festival City and Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary as well as between Marina Walk and Marina Mall.

Away from the din of the city, an air-conditioned boat ride from Dubai Festival City will take people up close with the flamingoes, the ospreys and 270 other species of birds that flock to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sactuary.

The new waterbus route will offer a 30-minute ride at Dh25 per person from 10am-6pm daily.

“The route takes people up close with the nature and offers a different perspective of Dubai, which is often associated with human progress. Through this route people will experience the natural splendour of Dubai,” said Al Qedra.

Early last month, the authority made another important foray, launching a route in Dubai Marina, between The Mall and the Walk.

The short seven-nine minute trip costs Dh2.

As part of its expansion in Dubai Marina, RTA plans to add two more routes, one connecting The Walk to the other side of Marina, while the third route will connect the Marina with Jumeirah Beach Residence.

Furthering the overhaul, the existing waterbus routes in the creek have also been realigned, with one route covering all the five stations.

The frequency of the waterbuses in the creek has been reduced to 12 minutes, while the operation timings have been extended. Waterbuses now run until 10pm in the creek.

The expansion plans also include ferries that currently cater mostly to tourists.

“We are constantly looking to improve our services and offer people what they want. I believe marine transport has a lot more to offer than what it does currently. There is a great scope for expanding the ferry services and in the near future ferries will be used as regular public transport modes,” said Al Qedra.

Presently, the 100-passenger ferries work on four different routes, carrying tourists from Al Ghubaiba to Al Seef, Jumeirah and Dubai Marina through three different routes, while the fourth route is between Dubai Marina and Atlantis.

The authority is currently working to start a route between Al Ghubaiba and World Islands, while another route to Jebel Ali is likely to start soon.

As many as 10 million passengers used water transport in the creek last year, registering an 11 per cent increase from the previous year.