A tram being lifted for maintenance work at the Tram Depot in Al Sufouh. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: More than 800 cameras monitor the Dubai Tram operations, keeping an eye on the stations, inside the trams and on the tracks as well as inside the depot.

The sophisticated cameras are part of the multi-layered safety and security system that makes Dubai Tram one of the safest in the world.

Gulf News was given exclusive access to the Al Sufouh Tram Depot, offering a peek into what it takes to run the trams daily.

Among the safety systems used is the alcohol detector for tram drivers, the dead-man’s switch that ensures the driver is paying attention continuously as well as the emergency braking system, apart from a series of other technologies.

“The tram system is monitored 24/7 by dedicated staff from the Operation Control Centre (OCC) at Al Sufouh Depot. There is a three-layered operation control, which is undertaken by the Chief Controller, the Security Controller and the Service Controller, who are directly in touch with the driver and the ground staff as well as coordinating with emergency and security teams,” said Mohammad Yousuf Al Mudharreb, Director, Rail Operations, at RTA.

The three controllers keep an eye on operations round the clock through the giant screen at the OCC, which relays inch-by-inch movement of the trams.

“All the shots are broadcast live simultaneously on a giant screen through more than 800 cameras, while the screen indicates, through a number of systems, the movement and scheduling of the tram, showing whether the trams are on schedule, ahead or delayed. This allows for non-stop, inch-by-inch monitoring of the operations,” Al Mudharreb said.

At the ground level, the safety regime begins even before the trams move out of the sheds.

“The tram is a driver-operated system, unlike the Metro which is a driverless system. So, to ensure highest levels of safety, before the tram driver takes the keys and proceeds to move the tram, every tram driver has to take the alcohol test through a handy machine that detects even the smallest traces of alcohol,” Al Mudharreb said.

Once he passes the test the driver takes control of the tram, but his actual test begins as he moves the tram, constantly pressing a button that indicates to the operators that he is paying attention.

“The driver controls the movement of the tram through a lever and we have the dead-man’s switch on the lever, which the driver has to press every three to five seconds. This button ensures that the tram driver is paying attention. If he loses control or forgets to press the button, the tram will automatically come to a complete halt immediately. This is to ensure the highest level of safety of the tram users as well as other road users,” he added.

Another important part of the safety system is the emergency brake, which stops the tram automatically whenever it faces an obstacle like a car, an object or a pedestrian.

Interestingly, though, the massive operation is monitored by only three people at any given point.

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

“We have eight Emirati drivers out of more than 80, but not all of them drive regularly as some of them work as instructors and in other capacities,” said Al Mudharreb, who is also one of the certified drivers.

The trams operate six days a week from 6.30am to 1.30am, while on Fridays they run between 9.30am and 1.30am. Services are offered at two separate frequency rates, with a 12 minute headway in Al Sufouh area and six minute headway on the loop circling Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence.