Image Credit: RTA

Dubai: Work on Route 2020 — metro Red Line extension — is set to begin by the end of this year, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced on Wednesday.

The new route will link the Red Line from Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station to Expo 2020 site.

Passing through areas like The Gardens, Discovery Gardens, Al Furjan, Jumeirah Gold Estates and Dubai Investments Park, the project will also act as a critical line in serving the needs of demographic growth around its vicinity.

The trial run on the route is expected to begin by the end of 2019, while the operations will begin on May 20, 2020, five months before the start of Expo 2020.

The RTA announced at a press conference that the contract for the Dh10.6-billion project has been awarded to Expolink, a consortium of three firms from France, Spain and Turkey. Nine other international consortia were in the race to bag the project.

Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, said His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has approved the contract.

The 15-kilometre link to the site of Expo 2020 will be carried out jointly by French firm Alstom, Acciona from Spain and Turkish firm Gulermak. The contract includes procurement of 50 trains as well as designing and building the stations and railway tracks.

“Being held for the first time in the region, Expo 2020 is expected to attract 25 million people over the period of six months and Route 2020 will serve as a vital link to the exhibition,” said Al Tayer.

A stretch of 11.8km of the route will be elevated, while 3.2km will be underground. A total of 15 new trains will be introduced to serve the Expo, while 35 additional trains will be procured to serve the existing metro routes. Currently, 79 trains serve the Dubai Metro’s Red and Green Lines.

Route 2020 will be served by seven stations, including a transfer station with the Red Line at Nakheel Harbour and Tower and the Expo station. Five of the stations will be elevated and two underground.

Abdul Moshin Ebrahim Younus, CEO of RTA’s Rail Agency, said a separate station will be built next to the existing Nakheel Harbour & Tower Station, which will serve as an interchange station, connecting the two lines.

“The two stations will be integrated at every level from concourse to entrance,” he added.

With a capacity to handle 23,000 riders per hour per direction, the route is expected to carry 125,000 commuters per day.

The metro is expected to carry 35,000 passengers to the Expo on weekdays and 47,000 passengers on weekends, which is likely to be 20 per cent of the total daily visitors to Expo 2020.

The project has been designed for a maximum headway of a trip every 100 seconds and but according to Abdul Mohsin, the operations will decide the actual frequency depending on the demand, which will be linked to the requirements of the Expo as well.

Al Tayer added that the route will also serve Al Maktoum International Airport in the future.

“We are ready to extend the route till Al Maktoum airport. It’s just an additional six kilometres and it is easy to build, but we haven’t been able to include it in the initial plans because the Airports Authority has asked for more time to finalise their master plan and we are waiting for their approval. It can be either done as a separate project or as a variation of the same project,” said Al Tayer.

He said that the Government of Dubai has allotted an initial funding of Dh1.5 billion to be utilised for the first six months of construction.

“In the next six months, the Department of Finance will study various options and work out a solution, but for now we have the funding to start the project,” said Al Tayer.

He added that the current fare structure will apply on Route 2020.

“If there are any changes to the fare on the Red Line and Green Line, it will also apply to the new route. But for now, there will not be any difference in the fare,” he said.

Henri Poupart-Lafarge, chairman and CEO of Alstom, Jose Manuel Entrecanales, chairman and CEO of Acciona, Kemal Guleryuz, chairman and CEO of Gulermack, were also present at the press conference.

Metro to have a major upgrade

Dubai Metro’s operating systems will have a major upgrade in time to accommodate Route 2020, a senior RTA official said.

“By the time Route 2020 is ready, the metro systems will see a major upgrade to accommodate the new route and additional trains. The operation control centre (OCC) as well as the automated train control system will be upgraded,” said Abdul Mohsin Ebrahim Younus, CEO of RTA’s Rail Agency.

He added that three major power stations will also be added to the grid, supplying the energy required for the additional trains.

Abdul Mohsin said the railway’s communication system will also see a major overhauling.

Taking lessons from the experience of operating the Red Line and Green Line, RTA is also making certain changes to the design of new train’s interiors as well as the internal design of the stations.

“We have learnt lessons in terms of the design of the stations and systems as well as entrances and exits. Lessons were also learnt on conservation of power and green technology as well as adding capacity to the stations and trains,” said Mattar Al Tayer, Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA.

The new trains and stations, though will not be bigger in size, will accommodate more passengers at any given time.

“Our trains currently accommodate a maximum of 640 passengers and the new trains will surely accommodate more passengers. We will be able to do that with the rework of the internal design and seating rearrangement,” said Abdul Mohsin.

Each station will have the capacity to handle 23,000 passengers per hour per direction.

Abdul Mohsin said the route is also likely to have express trips similar to early morning trips on the Red Line.