Posts Tagged ‘Dubai metro overcrowding’

For this second day in Dubai (and the only full day) I decided to visit the Dubai museum, to learn something about its history. After that I would wing it a bit, but I had in mind that might want to go to the Burj Khalifa area. Both of these objectives required use of the Dubai metro so the first step was to get access to that.

My hotel was on the Deira (eastern) side of the creek, and the museum and other remnants of old Dubai were all on the western side, and the metro was the easiest way to get between them. The first task therefore was to get an all-day ticket for the metro. This cost 22 UAE Dirhams, or around £5, and gave me unlimited rides for the day. The metro itself was in many respects similar to the one in Singapore – very modern, and with enclosed platforms. By which I mean it’s not like (most) of the London Underground where there’s no barrier between the platform and rails; instead, as has been done in recent LU extensions, there is a ceiling-high wall between passengers and the track, but with sliding doors in it. When a train arrives its doors line up with the platform doors, both sets open simultaneously, and you step onto (or out of) the train. However, there were some differences between this metro system and any other I’ve seen. First, there’s a first class section, referred to here as the Gold car. Secondly, and more significant, there’s a complete carriage on every train reserved for women and children. On my first trip I inadvertently stepped into this carriage, realised I was the only male in it, and shuffled embarrassedly to the next carriage (the connectors are open).

There were a couple of problems. First, although there were diagrams of the system on the platforms, there were no hand-out maps or diagrams available, so I had to use the street maps in my guidebook to identify the station I wanted. That introduced the second problem – several of the stations had been renamed since my guidebook was printed! So I experienced some confusion, but I managed to sort all of these out and successfully got to my morning destinations.

Late in the afternoon I went to the Dubai Mall, first to have a look at what is allegedly the world’s largest shopping mall, and secondly to get to the area where the glitziest skyscrapers are, including the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure. Getting there was no problem – there was a direct metro route from Union station near-enough to the hotel to a dedicated stop, Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. There was then a 400 metre walk along an internal walkway into the mall, and from which at a few points I was able to see the Burj. The mall itself wasn’t anything special – quite ordinary, in fact, apart from its size. However the setting of the metro Red line, on elevated tracks alongside one of the city’s main highways, and with tall skyscrapers on both sides, was quite dramatic. I was able to get some pictures of the setting.

Getting back into central Dubai was a lot harder, however. I waited for a train back and when the doors opened stepped forward to get on. Then I realised that there was simply no space on the train – it was already packed full, and no-one was getting off. I gather that there are business districts further out and that using the metro is how people get back into town to their accommodation; and this was going-home time. I waited for the next train, and the next, but none were any less crowded. I noticed that each time one or two people were able to insert themselves into the carriage, so when the fourth train arrived I did the same. I then had to travel six stops to the first junction station – between the Red line which I was on, and the Green Line – where I reckoned that people might start getting off. I lost my hold on a grab handle within the first few minutes of the ride, so for the rest of that journey I was relying completely on the press of bodies to keep me upright (which it did). Eventually at the junction station a lot of people got off, and the station after that was where I was doing the same, so in the end it was OK. But it was an uncomfortable experience. Apparently this is a well-known problem for which there doesn’t seem to be a real solution on the cards.

In the end I felt that the Dubai metro was useful, especially during off-peak hours; but the rush-hour crushes make it uncomfortable (the evenings are worse than the mornings). I wouldn’t want to have to do that every day, and visitors may want to bear this in mind when planning their day.

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