Around a million people have already vouched for the popularity of Dubai Tram. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Dubai Tram, which was launched in November 2014, has some unique characteristics, making it highly competitive with other tram systems that have been around for much longer in advanced cities of the world, its operator, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), says.

The network, which mainly covers Al Sufouh, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence areas, is clearly different even at first glance: There are no overhead suspended electrical wires that characterise tram systems worldwide. If fact, its power is “ground fed”, sourced from the very tracks it runs on.

And it is the world’s only network whose stations have gates that open and close automatically, raising the safety standard and convenience to users.

No other tram system would have been practical in Dubai because only Dubai Tram is designed to operate in the emirate’s blistering climate of up to 50 degrees Celsius, the RTA says. Little wonder then its stations and footbridges are fully air-conditioned, which is also a world-first, adds the RTA.

Behind the scenes, unknown to many riders, there are some clever measures built into the system to keep the journey as safe as possible. For example, every tram driver has to take an alcohol test through a handy machine that detects even the smallest traces of alcohol. The driver is only allowed control of the tram once the test is passed.

There is also the “dead man’s switch” on the lever that the driver has to press every three to five seconds, ensuring that the tram driver is paying attention. If the driver loses control or forgets to press the button, the tram will automatically come to a complete halt immediately.

And with a series of high-tech communications and control systems — for users and operators — Dubai Tram is ensuring it stays ahead of its time.

The 10.6km tramway is served by 11 stations and 11 trams, which are driven by more than 80 certified drivers.

It only costs Dh3 to hop on board, making Dubai Tram one of the most affordable networks in the world.

Around a million people have already vouched for its popularity, with 943,982 riders using the tram during the first three months of this year alone, the RTA says.