Interview: Mattar Al Tayer

What opportunities lie ahead for increased private sector participation in Dubai’s large-scale transport infrastructure projects?

MATTAR AL TAYER: At the emirate level, RTA has participated in defining and developing Dubai’s broader public-private partnership (PPP) policy framework in coordination with the relevant government departments. We aimed to have PPPs support the public sector by helping to avoid limitations on public sector budgets, as well as improve the level of service delivered. As for RTA, PPPs are seen as a way to introduce private sector technology and innovation. They help to raise funding, create diversification in the economy and extract long-term value for money through appropriate risk transfer to the private sector over the life of a project. New potential PPPs will soon be coming into play, including roads and bridges, metro cities, car parks and public transport systems.

Some of the largest of these projects will be the extension of the Dubai Metro Red Line to the exhibition site of Expo 2020, extension of the Dubai Metro Green Line and construction of the second phase of the Dubai Tram project. All in all, 50 new projects are planned for roads, maritime and public transport. Looking back on recent years, RTA has also cooperated with the private sector in the operation of the Dubai Metro, the management of marine vessels and air-conditioned bus shelters.

What degree of involvement will infrastructure or “smart transport” have under Dubai’s Smart City strategy in the immediate term?

AL TAYER: The Smart City initiative aims to transform the emirate into the world’s smartest city in the upcoming three years, by rolling out 100 initiatives and 1000 services to improve people’s quality of life in the city. Government agencies worldwide have seen that after using smart devices, the real challenge is increasing utilisation. It is a huge task and it calls for coordination and cooperation between various departments and authorities. In the end, the measure of success will not be the number of services, but the number of people who end up using them and the ease of use.

RTA is planning to involve students from local as well as foreign universities in designing the applications, while also recruiting the services of international experts. Around 50-60 students will be joining us to design and test the applications. We will get ideas from them on what features need to be added to and what services are in high demand.

Once the project is live, RTA plans to have multiple apps available for all four major mobile platforms – iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry. Work on this large-scale project has begun and services will be released in five phases. Nol and Salik top-ups will also be among the 200m Government services that the RTA will launch on mobile platforms through the summer of 2015. RTA also recently updated its mobile app, RTA Dubai, by adding nine services to the existing 23.

What do you see the potential impact of Etihad Rail’s second phase as being on Dubai’s pre-existing transport network?

AL TAYER: Etihad Rail integrates with the Dubai rail network through the Meydan Hub, where the line meets three of the planned Dubai rail lines, namely the Purple, Orange and Green Line extensions. In addition to Etihad Rail’s Meydan Hub, there will be two other passenger stations within Dubai, with one serving Al Maktoum International Airport and the other serving the area around Dubailand.

The project will add significant value to the Dubai transport network, with the development and location of stations being implemented with full coordination between RTA and the Etihad Rail Company. Furthermore, Etihad Rail runs parallel to Emirates Road and will cross several east-west roads via bridges and tunnels. It is estimated that the number of Etihad Rail passengers using the three stations located within Dubai will reach around 110,000 per day by 2030.