Dubai on Wednesday opened its first metro system and largest infrastructure project in over a decade.
The $7.6 billion Dubai Metro, when running at full capacity, will be the world’s longest driverless train system with over 70 km (43 miles) of track. In Dubai style, the metro also boasts a VIP gold-class section.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler, called the metro a vital component to the nation’s infrastructure. “It's the start of something,” he told reporters before the operation’s launch. “It is like when the first plane flew for Emirates (airline) and the first container ship arrived into port.”
There are over one million automobiles registered in Dubai, amounting to a car for every two residents. This has lead to unbearable bumper-to-bumper traffic in the growing city.
“Dubai Metro aims to ease traffic congestion and reduce traveling time, which in effect will reduce air pollution caused by cars and improve air quality,” the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said in a statement.
While the opening date was meant to imply symbolism—09/09/09—Wednesday’s opening seemed rushed. As of now, only 10 of 29 stations are functioning. Some stations won’t open until as late as June. The project, moreover, is nearly 80 percent over budget.
Nevertheless, the new metro is among the most technologically advanced in the world. It is entirely driverless and controlled by remote controls. A screen barrier between passengers and the track keeps the stations air conditioned, while Internet is anticipated in the future.
In line with cultural considerations, each five-car train has separate compartments for women and children.
A ride on the new metro will cost 1.8 dirhams, or about 50 U.S. cents, while the gold-class trip will cost 13 dirhams, or $3.55, each way. RTA anticipates 200 million passenger trips annually.