Bernard Tabary, CEO International, Keolis. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: Keolis, part of the French-Japanese consortium operating and maintaining Dubai Metro and Tram, is “exploring new opportunities to support the plans of Roads and Transport Authority [RTA] to further develop shared and smart mobility for Dubai residents and visitors”, Bernard Tabary, CEO International at Keolis, told Gulf News on Sunday.

Rider rebound

Speaking on the sidelines of the ‘4th MENA Transport Congress and Exhibition’ in Dubai, where experts are discussing the role of public transport and how the sector will look like in a post-pandemic world, Tabary said: “Ridership of public transport in Dubai will resume to pre-COVID levels, and we project a steady growth of passengers’ demand with a big boost because of Expo 2020 Dubai. We are thrilled to partner with RTA, a strong advocate of innovation which perfectly matches our culture of being innovative and technology driven.”

Last year, Keolis MHI Rail Management and Operation LLC took over the responsibility of operating and maintaining Dubai Metro as well as the operation of Dubai Tram from Serco Middle East. Keolis-MHI is a joint venture led by Keolis that includes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering (MHI) and Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), which have both been heavily involved in the construction and development of Dubai’s metro network since 2005.

First- and last-mile autonomous vehicles

Tabary said Keolis has been operating since 2016 the “world’s first autonomous shuttle trial” in Lyon, France. They have also been involved in more than 30 projects around the world in cities such as London, Las Vegas, Montreal, Newcastle, Stockholm, and Paris.

“We participated in the trial of a 5G-powered autonomous shuttle in Stockholm in 2020 and we are presently testing four different shuttles [Navya, EasyMile, General Motors and Auvetech] in our test site in Chateauroux, in France, to grow our expertise in fleet management of fully autonomous vehicles without operators on board.”

He added: “With Dubai’s goal to make 25 per cent of all transportation trips in the city to be smart and driverless by 2030, RTA can count on our experience of driverless operations.”

2040 Vision

Tabary noted in particular that are fully aligned with Dubai Vision 2040 regarding transport. “Our mission is to enhance everyday life for Dubai residents and visitors by imagining and operating safe, smart and sustainable shared transport solutions, accessible to everyone.”

Tabary listed three of their goals: First, to enhance the “vitality and appeal of Dubai by making its transport system even more attractive, innovative, comfortable, cleaner and safer”.

Second, to “act responsively for the planet, in the context of global warming. This includes reducing greenhouse emissions and the impact of our activities on the environment, taking action to protect water resources, recycling a greater proportion of waste and training drivers in eco-driving”.

Third, to create a value chain that “benefits all stakeholders and we will do this by working hand-in-hand with RTA to co-design and deploy mobility solutions that match the needs of Dubai passengers and are better integrated with other modes of transport”.

Monday’s highlights

At the transport congress, a session on ‘Smart Mobility Management’ covered artificial intelligence, smart apps and other technologies that contribute to improving the services offered by this sector. The session was moderated by Paul Comfort, SVP and Chief Customers Officer of Trapeze. Attendees included Mohammed Sharaf El-Din, Vice President of Product Management at Careem, Dubai; Khaled Al Awadhi, Director of Transportation Systems at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA); Christina Goel, Director of Corporate Services at Public Transport Corporation Barcelona (TMB) in Spain; Shahzeb Memon, Vice President and Global Director of Test-as-a-Service Management at Swyvl, Dubai; and Anan Al Ameri, Head of Sustainable Mobility at the Integrated Transport Centre, Abu Dhabi.

Another session on ‘Transport Leaders in the MENA Region’ was moderated by Khalid Al Hogail, President of UITP. Dr Rumaih Al Rumaih, President, Transport General Authority (KSA), and Dr Yousef Al Shawarbeh, Mayor of Amman, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, took part in the discussions.

Al Hogail kicked off the session by pointing out that the MENA region is witnessing racing against time to undertake a portfolio of giant transportation projects costing more than $100 billion (around Dh367 billion). He added that those in charge of these projects had access to generous support from governments of the region.