Dubai: Students and professionals in Dubai will soon have an option to study courses covering the transport sector, which so far is not well-represented at most local universities.

With public transport gaining a lot of attention in the region, the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) decision to tie up with local institutions to encourage tailor-made programmes offering specialisation in various aspects of transport operations is just what the doctor ordered.

The initiative is part of RTA’s MENA Centre for Transport Excellence activities, which was inaugurated in July by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“We at RTA believe that we have reached a certain maturity level and now it’s time we start sharing our expertise and the experience we have gained with others. We believe that we can help others in setting up public transport systems,” said Laila Taher Faridoon, director, RTA Chairman’s office.

A joint venture between RTA and International Association of Public Transport (UITP), which was conceived following the success of the UITP World Congress in Dubai last year, the centre will cover the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“The main idea is to have a hub in Dubai for exchanging and sharing knowledge in the transportation field. If you look around the world there are surveys and research projects on public transport trends in other parts of the world but there is nothing about the MENA region, so we will try to fill this gap,” said Faridoon.

As part of its activities, the centre will initiate research and development projects across the region and capture trends across major cities in MENA through dedicated surveys.

“For our first project, we are currently conducting a survey across the MENA region to see different trends. We are trying to gather figures and facts in order to have a proper idea about the ground realities,” said Faridoon.

However, she said that the main focus of the centre would be exchanging and sharing knowledge. This will involve organising different courses in the field of transportation.

“If you actually search in the universities currently, the field of transportation is not well represented. So, we are engaging with the academic sector to arrange the courses. We are already talking to a few universities to design different programmes,” said Faridoon.

The courses would range from under graduate programmes and master degrees to vocational training courses.

“We will initially provide specialised training programmes for different vocations in the transportation sector. The programmes will involve, technical training, operational training as well as training for the management in the transportation industry. There will also be training in the fundamentals of the transportation sector,” Faridoon said.

Courses offered through local universities will be accredited by Ministry of Higher Education, while any courses offered directly by the centre will be accredited by UITP, which has its own system.

She added that the centre will also conduct joint research projects with the local and international universities.

“In this region research and development activity is not very popular and particularly in the field of transportation it is non-existent, so our idea is to set the trend in this field. The research will include all the aspects of transportation,” she said.

RTA has signed a 20 year partnership agreement with UITP to operate the centre which will also serve as a regional office for the UITP MENA congress, held every two years across different cities in the region.

Though host cities were decided through bidding until now. The UITP has agreed to host the Congress in Dubai for the next 10 years.

UITP has set up similar centres of excellence in other parts of the world, a centre recently opened in Singapore that will cover the whole of Asia.