DOT primed to put metro up for tender

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A tender for Abu Dhabi’s planned 340km tram system will be sent out within the next two months and a consultant selected for the 130-km metro system in the capital in August, the Department of Transport (DoT) said yesterday.

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi

The moves are part of a multibillion-dollar transport upgrade for the emirate to prepare for a five-fold increase in daily trips by 2030, according to projections.

“The next one or two months is the scope and request for proposals [for the tram consultancy contract], although we are more focused at the moment on getting a metro consultant,” said Ahmad al Akhras, a transport planning consultant at the DoT.

Engineers, architects and consultants flocked to the capital yesterday for the Urban Transportation 2009 conference, where government transport planners are providing new details for the integrated public transport plans laid out in the emirate’s Plan 2030. The conference runs until tomorrow.

The Surface Transport Master Plan (STMP), which is expected to be released to the public in the coming weeks, calls for rolling out integrated bus, personal rapid transit, light rail, metro, high-speed regional rail and water taxis over the next two decades.

The contract to help develop the STMP was awarded to Mott MacDonald and Steer Davies Gleave.

Separately, other government entities are planning a multibillion-dollar freight rail line to further the emirate’s industralisation plans.

Although the DoT has not given an estimate on the masterplan’s total value, the most recent estimates by industry professionals suggest it could cost as much as Dh250 billion (US$68.06bn), including an Dh80bn high-speed regional rail to Dubai, Al Ain and Al Gharbia that has not been given a planned launch date.

In the process, the city will be transformed and become a more pedestrian-friendly city, said planners at the DoT and the Urban Planning Council (UPC), which is charged with implementing Plan 2030.

Dr Alan Perkins, a senior planning manager at the UPC, said two challenges were existing road networks on Abu Dhabi island and land use patterns. The multi-lane roads criss-crossing the capital were effectively “urban highways” while the towers and extensive parking effectively formed “superblocks”, he said, both of which impeded pedestrian access. Underground walkways, meanwhile, were underutilised with pedestrians often opting instead to cross dangerously busy roads.

The next planning phases will help the Government decide whether the metro and tram systems should be opened in stages or all at once. It will also decide how much investment it will seek from the private sector, and what structure that might take, such as a public-private partnership.

“We want to open the doors for investors,” said Falah al Ahbabi, the general manager of the UPC, during the conference. “We are committed to being as transparent as possible.”

The metro consulting tender reportedly drew a record 72 companies, indicating the heavy investment Abu Dhabi is planning while other infrastructure projects around the world are scaled back.

Next year, the DoT plans to submit a tender to study a proposed 500km high-speed train that would reach Dubai, Al Ain, the Al Gharbia region and the Saudi border.

A second highway to Dubai, which will be parallel to E11 and link up with Emirates Road at the Dubai border, will also be one of the first projects and is expected to be completed in the next five years, said Abdullah al Otaiba, the chairman of the DoT.

Ivan Gale , April 26. 2009 , www.thenational.ae

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