TRAVEL IN STYLE

UAE, Dubai 2014 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board & Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), on works and initiatives to boost the transport network across Dubai.

HE Mattar Al Tayer
BIOGRAPHY
Mattar Al Tayer is the Chairman of the Board and Executive Director at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). He has led the institution since its establishment in 2005. Before taking the helm at RTA, he worked at the Dubai Municipality, assuming several positions up to Deputy Director General. He is a professional Civil Engineer and holds an Honorary Fellowship of the British Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE). He is an active participant in a host of councils and committees in Dubai, including as a Member of the Executive Council of the Dubai Government, Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, and Member of the Expo 2020 Preparatory Committee.

The government has created the Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP), in which you have participated by sharing your experience with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). With which other authorities will the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) share its experience?

The RTA is sharing its experience in implementing DGEP requirements and criteria with many governmental entities such as DEWA, the Dubai Police, the Dubai Municipality, and Dubai Customs. This is an annual practice that the RTA will continue depending on the requirements of each authority. In addition, RTA holds regular meetings with its strategic partners regarding its external communications plan and a culture of excellence is embedded within these meetings. The RTA also participates in the annual best practices forum, where all government entities present their case. One of the purposes of the DGEP is to share best practices between government entities in order to improve the overall performance of the governmental sector. One of the indicators that shows the effectiveness of the program is the improvement in overall customer satisfaction across all Dubai government entities from 74% in 2007 to 87% by end-2012. That said, there will always be room for improvement across each standard metric and the RTA will continuously ensure that improvements are implemented.

A tram system is being developed in Dubai. How will this complement Dubai's underground rail and bus infrastructure?

Dubai Tram will be serving some of the city's economic nerve centers, which are at the heart of its tourism trade. The tram services will complement the Dubai Metro Red Line through the direct linking of Phase I of the project with two Metro stations, namely Dubai Marina station and the Jumeirah Lakes Towers station, respectively, to provide the safe and direct transfer of passengers between the two modes of public transport. The public bus services will be integrated with both Dubai Tram and Metro services through either the urban bus lines, or feeder bus routes, which are designed to provide the most seamless travel to remote destinations. According to the planned schedule, Phase I of the Dubai Tram project will be completed with commercial operations to commence in November 2014. The Board of Directors of the RTA endorsed the award of a contract to construct four covered and air-conditioned footbridges for Dubai Tram users—two bridges will also be constructed over Al Safouh Street to serve tram users and residents on both sides of the street, while the other two will link the Tecom zone with the locality on the opposite side of the street, as well as the Dubai Marina Mall, thus providing safety for pedestrians.

What other projects are you planning in order to improve customer service in the public transport sphere?

Apart from said footbridges, the RTA is planning to integrate the tram route with the nearby Palm Monorail system by constructing a footbridge linking Palm Jumeirah tram station with the Palm Monorail terminal station at the entrance of Jumeirah Palm area. Such a linkage will provide for the convenient integration of the Palm Monorail service with the public transport network within Dubai and help improve overall customer satisfaction among public transport users. The RTA is currently in the process of tendering the Dubai Metro Red Line connection from Sheikh Zayed road to the Expo 2020 site near Al Maktoum International Airport. The planned connection will serve existing and future developments beside the Expo 2020 site along the proposed route. The line is planned to be in service by late 2019. Other planned public transport projects will include the Green Line extension, which will extend the current services of Dubai Metro Green Line to the newly developing suburbs of Lagoon, International City, Silicon Oasis, and Academic City. The total length of this extension is 21 kilometers featuring 11 stations. The extension of the Red Line from the Rashidiya district to the Mirdif area is also a future rail project.

The Green Bus is the leading environmental sustainability project launched by the RTA in cooperation with S.S. Lootah and the UNEP. The RTA has in place a strategic plan to broaden the scope of the experiment to span 60 buses over the next three years. How are you applying the plan, and what is your approach to the environment?

This is a strategic project of the Public Transport Agency (PTA), to be implemented by the maintenance and services departments, and involving the use of B5 biodiesel on 60 buses starting from 2014 to 2016. To the 11 buses already running on biodiesel, 10 will be added in 2014, and 40 in 2015 and 2016. The RTA has other initiatives to support environmental sustainability, which include setting the air-conditioning temperature inside buses at 24 °C, which has already been implemented on 517 buses. We also have a new initiative, which involves automatic bus engine shut-off after five minutes at a bus stop or station in order to reduce idling time, fuel consumption, and gas emissions, a system that has recently been implemented on 10 buses.

The RTA recently held its 45th Customer Council session. What were the conclusions of this event?

Customer Council gatherings are always held with the aim of gauging the RTA's customer needs, views, and suggestions to improve the service offering. They also open new horizons and add to the RTA's third strategic “Customers First" strategy, particularly as we provide more than 206 diversified services through multiple channels including our website, and customer service centers, among others. This warranted us to respond to customer feedback in a timely fashion, and to take opinions on board in all our current and future initiatives toward improvement. Constructive suggestions from the public included providing NOL Card vending machines, which the RTA has already installed at certain bus stations, while a study is underway to have them installed in others.

What are the main challenges that Expo 2020 will bring to the RTA?

The RTA does not consider Expo 2020 to be a challenge, but rather a great opportunity and another significant addition to its excellent record of hosting and managing major international events such as IMF and UITP meetings, among others. In fact, the timing of the announcement that Dubai would host Expo 2020 could not have been better, since the RTA is currently undertaking a project to update strategic and implementation plans related to transportation for Dubai, which will develop integrated transportation projects and policies necessary to cope with the forecast urban and economic growth of the Emirate, including developments and activities relating to Expo 2020. The study is currently in the data-collection and transport-survey stages, which aim to better understand travel behavior within Dubai and between Dubai and the surrounding Emirates. This study aims to produce integrated long-, medium-, and short-term road and public transportation plans for the Emirate of Dubai until the year 2030. In line with this, the RTA is also working on the preparation of a detailed Expo 2020 Transportation Master Plan, which aims at identifying the detailed requirements of the event in terms of the transportation infrastructure, systems, and initiatives needed to serve the Dubai Expo 2020 site during the event and after it.